1,000 Villagers ‘Stranded’ in Maungdaw Awaiting Govt Rescue

By Nyein Nyein 1 September 2017

SITTWE, Rakhine State — More than 1,000 people—including government nurses, teachers and employees from an agriculture department—have been left waiting for government rescue in two villages in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township amid an ongoing Muslim militancy in the area.

More than 300 people are reportedly stranded in Kyein Chaung village in southeastern Maungdaw, while another 889 in Ta Man Thar village are in a similar situation in northern Maungdaw. Representatives of the communities told The Irrawaddy they have been waiting for government rescue for nearly a week since the attacks broke out last Friday. Those left in the villages include ethnic Arakanese, Thet and Daingnet.

“We don’t dare to venture out as the road [to Maungdaw town] is riddled with improvised landmines,” one of the government employees from Kyein Chaung village said over the phone on Thursday evening, referring to explosive devices she said were placed by Muslim militants. Those who spoke to The Irrawaddy did so on the condition of anonymity, saying they feared government retribution for voicing their complaints.

“They said we would be airlifted out and told us to wait in our uniforms but, they haven’t showed up,” another government employee from Ta Man Thar village told The Irrawaddy.

The employee from Kyein Chaung gave a similar account. “When we called them today to ask about their absence, they just said ‘we will come and get you,’” she said.

The Myanmar Army has alleged that since attacks on 30 police outposts in northern Rakhine State on Friday, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has reportedly targeted civilians. The Myanmar government announced it would treat the ARSA as an official “terrorist organization” on the same day. The attacks, and the military operations which have followed, have triggered a mass exodus from northern Rakhine, by Rohingya Muslims, Arakanese Buddhists, and Burmese Hindus living in the area.

The civil servant from Kyein Chaung said that those awaiting rescue in the village have been seeking refuge in the police station.

“We don’t dare go out even in daytime,” she said. “The village is surrounded by Muslim villages. We heard gunfire and fire in their villages.”

The woman from Ta Man Thar village said they are now staying in the village monastery with police.

“We can’t go out of the village. The bridge linked to the village has been destroyed. There are also mines on the road,” she said.