Local authorities in Arakan State this week shortened the night-time curfew in townships affected by clashes between polarized communities in western Burma.
The hours of the curfew have been reduced from 7 pm to 5 am to a six-hour period between 10 pm and 4 am when all citizens are required to remain indoors. The easing of regulations was announced on Wednesday in Arakan State capital Sittwe, Kyaukpyu and Ramree, while the curfew was reduced in majority Muslim towns Buthidaung and Maungdaw on Monday.
Win Myaing, a spokesman for Arakan State Affairs, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the decision to ease the hours of curfew was taken because “stability is returning.” The authorities must renew the order every 60 days; before August the original hours of curfew were set at 6 pm to 6 am across the region.
Among the nine townships where curfews were imposed in June and August, Minbya and Mrauk-O townships’ curfews were completely lifted after two months while that of Thandwe was lifted after four months.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy, Khine Pyi Soe, a spokesman for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said, “We welcome the curfew reduction as it is very good for manual laborers because they have more time to travel home after working hours.”
Several cases of persons being arrested on their way home from work were reported since the curfew was imposed in June. Other times, persons have been detained for venturing outdoors after dark to buy provisions at their local stores.
Some residents of Kyaukpyu have said they welcome the announcement as it directly affects the livelihoods of fishermen, farmers and local commuters who travel to work very early in the morning.
Several residents of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe said they welcomed the announcement, but noted their fears that violence might break out again.
A resident of downtown Sittwe, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Irrawaddy that she had mixed feelings after she heard the authorities’ announcement about the reduction in curfew.
“I could not sleep last night, because I felt so insecure,” she said. “We must be on the alert in case of more violence.”
About 20 villages in Maungdaw were set alight, and 10 were completely razed in June 8 violence between Buddhists Arakanese and Muslim Rohingyas. As the strife escalated to other townships, President Thein Sein announced the curfews and announced a state of emergency on June 10.
At least 80 people have been killed in the sectarian violence, thousands of homes were destroyed, and tens of thousands are still sheltering in relief camps.
Locals in Maungdaw said there is an urgent need for secure houses to be rebuilt as it is still rainy season. The meteorological department also warned of cyclones around the Arakan coast on Wednesday.
A villager in Thayaykonebaung village in Maungdaw told The Irrawaddy that “it has been raining for two days, and the new shelters cannot withstand it. We are worried about our health, especially of children and elderly people.”
Irrawaddy Reporter Khin Oo Thar contributes to this report.