Rakhine State Has More Than 30,000 New IDPs, CSO Says

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Rakhine State saw an increase of more than 30,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) last month, bringing the total to nearly 200,000, according to civil society estimates.

The Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC) reported on July 7 that there was a total of 190,708 known IDPs in the state, displaced by clashes, military movements, and “clearance operations” by the Burma Army in their ongoing offensives against the Arakan Army in the region.

“There was an increase of 34,000 new IDPs in June alone. These IDPs are living in Rathedaung, Ann, Mrauk U and Minbya townships in Rakhine State,” REC secretary Zaw Zaw Tun said. “Now it’s rainy season and there is no regional stability in the area, either.”

The REC had calculated at the end of May that the IDP population in Rakhine State was 156,456.

Recently, more than 20,000 people from Rathedaung Township—including six villages in the Kutawng area, three villages in the Kyeintha area and nine in the Kyauktan area—have fled their homes for safety.

The REC has said that nearly 5,000 people from some 40 villages in Ann Township and 2,500 people from five villages in Mrauk U have also recently sought refuge elsewhere.

The Burma Army has officially announced and launched “clearance operations” in Rathedaung Township, according to REC, but in Ann Township they launched similar offensives without issuing an order to locals that they were doing so.

“Even though the Burma Army withdrew its clearance operation order, in practice they have launched military operations in the area. It caused many people to flee from their villages,” the REC wrote in its July 7 report.

“Actually, they launched clearance operations,” Zaw Zaw Tun confirmed to NMG. “I’m not sure whether another indirect reason [for the displacement] is that the Burma Army has deployed more troops in the area, with the election coming. They have created more clashes in the area.”

He added that he was “sure” that the number of clashes had increased in recent months.

“They have launched both official and unofficial ‘clearance operations’ in Rakhine State. Therefore, the IDP population increased in June,” Zaw Zaw Tun said, referring to the Burma Army.

Most of those who fled their homes have sought refuge in the towns of Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, Buthidaung and Sittwe, but some have ended up in nearby villages, he said.

Local civil society organizations have said that IDPs in Rakhine State did not have sufficient food rations for the month of June because of ongoing restrictions on travel and the transportation of supplies in the region.

Khin Maung Latt, a parliamentarian for Ponnagyun, told NMG that the IDPs in his township left home with nothing and the government has failed to meet their needs.

“IDPs in Ponnagyun need food rations because they could not bring anything with them when they fled. Their property that they left at home was destroyed,” he told NMG. “Transportation is really difficult in the area because their villages can only be reached by waterways. The government needs to solve this. The government needs to send food rations for these people. If the government sends rations, nobody will block them. The government has not implemented this effectively.”

Many IDPs in Rakhine State have been staying in empty schools, closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But with schools scheduled to re-open, it remains unclear where the IDPs will go.

Those staying in IDP camps have reported widespread flooding due to the annual rainy season and are concerned about the public health risks that could arise given the current conditions, including fever, diarrhea and flu potentially spreading among the camp residents.