Civil Servants Refusing to Work in Chin State’s Paletwa Amid Fighting Between Military, AA

By Thazin Hlaing 17 January 2020

YANGON—Many civil servants are refusing to work in Chin State’s Paletwa Township, where the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) ethnic armed group have been fighting since November 2018, according to Chin State Municipal, Electricity and Industry Minister U Soe Htet.

“Not only teachers, but also police and staff of other departments don’t want to work there due to security concerns. Some have even chosen to resign rather than be transferred to Paletwa,” the minister told The Irrawaddy.

Civil servants began refusing to work in Paletwa in 2018, and many more followed suit last year. Paletwa first started to experience instability in 2015, but teachers were still willing to work there when they were transferred to Paletwa until about 2016, he said.

“When the region was peaceful, teachers from central Myanmar were happy to live and teach there. But as the region has become unstable, they dare not stay. Many have taken unpaid leave,” he added.

There are 384 basic education schools in Paletwa Township, but 212 schools have closed during the 2019-2020 academic year, which began in June last year, due to a lack of teachers.

At the Education Ministry alone, as of Thursday 139 staff had requested to be transferred from Paletwa to other parts of Chin State, and 67 outside the state, while five had submitted their resignations.

Not only teachers but also civil servants working in other departments including the police force, and the Immigration and Forestry departments in Paletwa Township have concerns about their personal safety, said the minister.

“Here, everyone is in a state of panic. They are concerned that they will be targeted. Even the urban areas are not safe, but the situation is worse in rural areas,” said Paletwa Township administrator U Koe Aung.

Some 110,000 people live in Paletwa Township’s 388 villages. Around 60,000 people have been impacted by the fighting, while 4,000 to 6,000 have been displaced from their homes, according to the Chin State government.

On Jan. 9, the Paletwa Township General Administration Department extended its dusk-to-dawn curfew for two months. The department imposed the curfew on Nov. 9 last year.

On Dec. 31, the AA briefly detained 16 Construction Ministry staff for interrogation and released them the following day.

On Dec. 25, the Buthidaung Township National League for Democracy chairman died while being detained by the AA. The AA said the chairman was killed in an artillery attack by the Myanmar military, a claim the military denies.

Meanwhile, the AA has detained Upper House lawmaker U Whei Tin of Paletwa Township since Nov. 3, and refused to provide proof that he is still alive.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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