Trapped By Conflict, Villagers In Ann Township Live Off Fruit And Vegetables

By Network Media Group
Wednesday, June 24, 2020

More than 10,000 desperately need food after the Burma Army cut off supply roads in villages in Rakhine State while conducting a military clearance campaign during the battle against Arakan Army (AA).

Salai Liang of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) says more than 12,000 from 42 villages in Ann Township need emergency food rations. “Both waterway and land roads have been blocked in Ann Township, leaving nothing for people to eat,” he says. Out of rice, the villagers are surviving on bananas, jackfruit, mangoes and vegetables.

Salai Liang says Tatmadaw has blocked all transportation routes since the beginning of the year, but with permission, they were allowing some goods to be brought in. Since mid-June, the area has been completely sealed off.

“The Burma Army launched a clearance operation in the area on June 17. After that, nobody can travel in the area,” says Salai Liang.

Before, residents of Dalet Chaung village-tract would travel by land to the town of Ann or by boat to Kantawng Gyi, Myaypon Township.

A local, who asked not to be named, told NMG the Burma Army forced residents of three villages to live together. The source says the Tatmadaw is blocking all supply lines to the village-tract because it’s believed AA was receiving some of the food rations.

Tatmadaw Western Military Region headquarters is located in the town of Ann.

Zaw Zaw Tun, who is the secretary of the Rakhine Ethnics Congress (REC), told NMG that the Burma Army and AA have fought in the beleaguered village-tract at least 40 times since January and it’s why Tatmadaw closed all roads and water routes.“Consequently, locals are facing food shortages and they’re completely out of rice.” Because the fighting is ongoing, no food aid is not reaching them, unlike for displaced camps in the town of Ann, he says.

Salai Liang says there are 37 ethnic Chin villages in Dalet Chaung village-tract, the other five being Rakhine. Both AA and Tatmadaw accuse the villagers of conspiring with their enemy. Trapped in the middle of this intense conflict, they are living in a constant state of fear, he explains.

Ann Township isn’t the only location facing a food crisis because of the conflict, Zaw Zaw Tun says. Fighting around Myaypon, Buthitaung, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw townships in Rakhine State and Paletwa Township in Chin State has also disrupted supply lines, preventing food from reaching civilians.