Over 700 People Flee Homes as Tatmadaw, AA Clash in Northern Rakhine

By Min Aung Khine 20 December 2018

SITTWE—More than 700 villagers have been displaced by clashes between the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine State.

The entire population of Pyinnagyi village fled after the two sides clashed near the border of Kyauktaw and Ponnagyun townships on Tuesday.

Pyinnagyi, which is home to ethnic Mro people, was the closest village to the clashes. U Maung Maung, a Rakhine State lawmaker from Kyauktaw Township, said over 180 villagers had fled the clashes.

Around 80 residents of Chin Ma Wun Taung village fled to Thalu Chaung village to avoid the fighting. “We heard a lot of gunfire. Last night over 100 villagers from Pyinnagyi village arrived in Nga Si Yine village,” U Maung Ni, a resident of Thalu Chaung, told The Irrawaddy.

Locals reported hearing gunshots and artillery fire in the area until noon on Thursday. Villagers from the surrounding villages did not dare go out to their farms or go fishing.

Elsewhere, more than 200 ethnic Khami people from two villages in Ponnagyun Township fled to Sai Din village in Buthidaung Township on Monday.

“For the time being, government departments and social organizations are providing food for them. But the villagers are scared and dare not go outside. So, they could face many difficulties in future,” said U Aung Thaung Shwe, a Lower House lawmaker representing Buthidaung Township.

The Buthidaung Township General Administration Department has provided a week’s rations for displaced persons taking shelter in Sai Din village, according to administrator U Kyaw Min Tun.

“We are also negotiating with international non-governmental organizations to provide aid for them,” he told The Irrawaddy.

On Dec. 9 and 13, over 330 ethnic Mro people from Kyaukse Taung, Thabyu Chaung and Hpet Wun villages in Ponnagyun Township fled to Thin Pone Tan village in the same township.

“We still hear gunshots. Now, over 300 people are taking shelter in our village. We have enough food for the time being,” Thin Pone Tan village administrator U Thein Win told The Irrawaddy.

According to reports from the Tatmadaw and the AA, the two sides have been engaged in periodic clashes on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships since Nov. 30.

On Dec. 12, the AA and its allies the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army released a joint statement saying they sought to engage in political negotiations and halt military operations in an effort to achieve peace.

The government’s Peace Commission welcomed the statement, and said it would negotiate with the three to sign bilateral ceasefire agreements.

However, daily clashes between the AA and the Myanmar Army continue.

The AA is believed to have moved its headquarters from Laiza, which is under the control of the Kachin Independence Army, to a location in Chin State near the Indian border.