Rakhine IDP Population Surpasses 200,000

Friday, October 2, 2020

The population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Rakhine State has surpassed 200,000, with more people continuing to flee ongoing clashes between the Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA), the Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC) has said.

According to an October 1 REC report, there are total of 226,804 IDPs in Rakhine State including 77,944 in camps and 148,860 staying outside of camps. On July 7, the REC had reported that there were 190,700 IDPs in Rakhine State.

“We reported the IDP population in the first week of July and then we could not report it for August and September,” REC secretary Zaw Zaw Tun told NMG. “There was an increase of more than 30,000 IDPs in two months. […] The number of IDPs increased in Kyauktaw, Rathedaung and Buthidaung regions. There was a small increase of IDPs in Mrauk U.”

He said that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, aid has not been able to be delivered to meet the IDPs’ needs.

“They are fleeing during the COVID-19 period. Therefore, donors have not been able to come and provide assistance. That’s why they need food and shelter,” Zaw Zaw Tun added.

The REC reported that the government, international donors and NGOs had provided some assistance to IDPs in some of the affected townships during the last week of September, but there remain many IDPs who have not been able to obtain any such aid.

“A little assistance arrived in Myebon, Minbya and Buthidaung townships. IDPs in these three townships got a little assistance. IDPs in the Dalet Chaung area are facing a very bad situation, because the Burma Army won’t allow anybody to go there,” Zaw Zaw Tun explained. “People in the area are not allowed to leave, either. That’s why people in Dalet Chaung are really struggling for their survival.”

Local civil society organizations (CSOs) have said that more than 1,000 IDPs seeking refuge at the Mahamuni Pagoda in Kyauktaw town are in need of food and shelter. They have been at the site since mid-September.

“We are planning to build temporary shelters for them. We need donors for it,” a Kyauktaw local helping the IDPs told NMG. “They also need food rations. A few donors came to provide assistance to them. Some parliamentarians come to observe the situation facing the IDPs. Some donors donated bags of rice.”

Local Rakhine people, Rakhine political parties and CSOs have said that the Burma Army continues to launch military operations and commit abuses against civilians even as the country struggles with a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

“They have accused civilians of being linked to the AA. Some villagers have died in Burma Army custody,” Aye Nu Sein, a spokesperson for the Arakan National Party (ANP), told NMG. “Military columns have entered villages and fired their weapons indiscriminately. Villagers have been arrested and tortured during interrogations. Some villages have been burned down. They have committed human rights abuses. We want the government to investigate these cases of human rights abuse.”

The Burma Army and the AA engaged in multiple clashes in Minbya Township on September 30 and October 1, displacing more villagers in the area.