Arakan State Civilians Shelter at Monasteries Following Fighting

By Moe Myint 5 January 2016

RANGOON — More than 100 villagers have reportedly fled to monasteries since fighting between the Arakan Army and government troops in Arakan State’s Kyauktaw Township flared up on Dec. 27.

Tun Tha Sein, from Taungoo village in Arakan State, said the displaced civilians in Arakan State had taken shelter in monasteries in the villages of Kyiya Pyin and Zaytitaung, Mrauk-U Township, where local civil society organizations are providing them with food and blankets.

“Villagers said to me that they feared for their safety and left their houses after they heard a huge explosion near their village. As far as I know, more than 130 people are spread among monasteries in the two villages,” Tun Tha Sein told The Irrawaddy.

He added that fighting had also erupted in areas between Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw townships, but that not all people from affected villages, including Thantatar and Ba Ei, were receiving aid.

Hla May, founder of the Kyauktaw Women’s Network, said she did not believe that there were any war victims in Kyauktaw Township, but that she had heard that in addition to Mrauk-U Township, people had also fled to neighboring Paletwa Township in Chin State.

In late December, Maung Than Sein, a local of Thapyuchaung village, sustained a bullet wound to the arm and was taken to Sittwe Hospital for medical treatment. News of his injury was accompanied by allegations that he was acting as a porter for the Burma Army when he was shot.

Last month’s fighting is only the latest in a series of clashes between the Burma and Arakan armies. Forces from both sides have exchanged fire with some regularity since fighting first erupted late last March.

At the same time, at least 20 people have been detained under Burma’s controversial Unlawful Association Act for alleged links to the Arakan Army. Kyauktaw Township authority Khin Maung said 18 Arakan Army soldiers were arrested following the fighting last year.

Nyo Twan Awng, a colonel in the Arakan Army, claimed that at least 20 people have died and that more than 50 more have been injured by government troops in recent weeks. These claims, however, have not been verified by the government.