Thousands more Myanmar villagers flee armed conflict in Rakhine State — Radio Free Asia

More than 3,000 civilians have fled villages in conflict-ridden far north Rakhine State after three days of heavy fighting between government forces and the rebel Rakhine army that killed a villager and injured three others, an aid worker said Thursday.

Refugees from Rathedaung and Maungdaw townships join a tide of around 200,000 civilians living in Buddhist monasteries and overcrowded camps after being displaced by armed conflict in Rakhine State since late 2018, according to the Rakhine Ethnics Congress , a Myanmar NGO.

Further fighting between the two armies began on 12 July near Koe Tan Kauk village of Rathedaung and Chain Khar Lain village, and in Sar Ngan Chaung village of Maungdaw. Fighting raged until July 14, when civilians were killed and injured, local relief workers said.

“Some people fled to Maungdaw and some villagers to Rathedaung and Buthidaung. Some fled to Sittwe. In total there were about 3,000 people,” said Kyaw Min Khaing, a volunteer helping displaced civilians in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state.

“More people are coming today. Some will arrive tomorrow. Many local villagers who were scattered during the fighting are now congregating inside the IDP [internally displaced persons] camps,” he said.

On July 13 alone, more than 2,000 civilians from four Rathedaung communities and more than 80 people from Aung Thukha village in Maungdaw fled to Sittwe, volunteers helping displaced villagers said.

Rathedaung and Maungdaw, coastal districts on the Bay of Bengal, have been riven by conflict for nearly three years when the Myanmar military responded to an attack on border guard posts by a militant group with a scorched earth campaign which drove more than 740,000 Rohingya Muslims across the neighboring border and into Bangladesh.

Myanmar’s army information team said in a Facebook post on Thursday that AA soldiers stationed around three villages in Rathedaung township were “using villagers as human shields” to carry out terrorist acts and block lines of fire. communication in the region.

“Today, military columns began launching an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against AA insurgents around this area to reopen lines of communication and rescue villagers,” he said.

AA spokesman Khine Thukha said Burmese army fire amid the fighting killed a civilian in the village of Chain Khar Lain, and hostilities continued on Thursday with government soldiers using heavy artillery near the village of Kyauktan.

The AA demands autonomy for the ethnic Rakhines in the state. Formed in 2009 with around 8,000 fighters last year, the AA was declared an illegal association and a terrorist organization by the government in March.

Displaced people who have fled to Sittwe are being housed in Buddhist monasteries and have to rely on donors for food, the volunteers said.

The map shows the location of Sittwe, capital of Rakhine State in western Myanmar.
FRG Chart

Flee from “very inhuman” soldiers

Aye Hlaing Chey, who left her home in Aung Thukha village, said Burmese troops passed near her village every two or three days.

“They are very inhumane,” she told RFA. “When they entered the village, they fired their guns and we had no weapons to resist them.”

“We could barely find a meal to support ourselves, so in the end we decided to flee our homes,” she added.

Residents said some people left the village of Aung Thukha because border police threatened to burn the houses of those who tried to return after fleeing.

Villager Khine Win, who has a teenage son and daughter, said she left her home because she feared soldiers would torture the civilians living there.

“I don’t care what they are fighting for, but I feared they would cause us trouble or torture us if they entered the village,” she told RFA. “We fled because of these fears.”

Khine Than Aye, who is now in Sittwe after leaving the same village, said she feared for the safety of her husband who was left behind.

“The village agents told my husband on the phone that he should not leave,” she said. “If he does, our house will be seized and we will never be able to return home.”

The fighting continues to rage despite a temporary unilateral ceasefire that the AA put in place until the end of August because Myanmar forces launched the offensives, he added.

In southern Rakhine state, up to 3,000 displaced villagers who sought refuge in the urban township of Ann have been forced to rent homes there as the camps are full, people helping refugees said on Thursday. villager.

Around 1,500 other displaced people are staying temporarily in two now full displacement camps sent by the government to handle the influx of civilians who have fled their homes

Villagers who fled their communities amid armed conflict in Maungdaw Township sit on the ground of a Buddhist monastery they took refuge in in Sittwe, capital of Myanmar's western Rakhine State , July 15, 2020.
Villagers who fled their communities amid armed conflict in Maungdaw Township sit on the ground of a Buddhist monastery they took refuge in in Sittwe, capital of Myanmar’s western Rakhine State , July 15, 2020.
Credit: FRG

Scramble for food outside the camps

Myo Lwin, a volunteer who helps displaced people in Ann, said people who live outside official camps for displaced people receive no help and are left to find food and shelter on their own.

“Many of them don’t get any help,” he told RFA. “Some displaced people have to rent land to build makeshift shelters. Not everyone has safe access to a latrine. Many of them fled with nothing but their clothes.

“In the government-run IDP camps, people will at least have regular meals,” said Soe Thein, the administrator of the No. 2 IDP camp in Ann town.

“Those on the outside are living without any donors to give them money and food,” he added.

Win Zaw, who fled with his family from Chaung Wa village to Ann town, said the displaced people face shortages of food and materials to build temporary shelters.

“Even at the inflated price of 60,000 kyats ($43) per bag of rice, we still cannot find rice,” he said.

“We are trying to build a makeshift house, but there is a shortage of materials such as bamboo and thatched roofs,” he added.

Myanmar’s military has restricted the transport of rice – Myanmar’s staple food – to more than 40 villages in Ann township in Rakhine since January in a bid to cut off vital AA supplies.

Residents of at least 18 of the 48 communities in Dalat Chaung village in Ann township have fled their homes due to fighting and food shortages, aid workers said.

Win Myint, Rakhine State Spokesperson and Municipal Affairs Minister, said it was very difficult for the government to provide assistance to displaced people who are not living in camps.

But he added: “We may be able to provide assistance depending on their needs. We could build them makeshift shelters.

According to the Rakhine Ethnics Congress, 194 civilians were killed during the 19 months of conflict.

Reported by Myanmar Service of RFA. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.