Curfews Cut Back in Arakan State as Tensions Ease

By Lawi Weng & Khin Oo Tha 16 August 2012

Local authorities in Arakan State have shortened curfews in townships affected by clashes between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims as the situation appears to be returning to normal, according to government officials and local residents.

In Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, where the worst of the violence broke out in early June, the curfew has been reduced by one hour, while in other townships such as Minbya and Mrauk Oo, which were only recently put under curfew, the lockdown has been cut by five hours.

The restrictions were initially placed on six townships, including Maungdaw, Buthidaung and the state capital Sittwe, where residents were told to stay off the streets from 6 pm to 6 am. Curfews were later imposed on three other townships earlier this month after fresh clashes broke out in Kyauktaw Township.

According to Hla Thein, a spokesperson for the Arakan State government, the local authorities decided to relax the curfews because tensions in the area are easing. He added, however, that thousands of people displaced by the violence remain in need of assistance to rebuild their lives.

Local residents also said that while Sittwe’s university and schools in some townships have been reopened, few students are attending classes due to ongoing security concerns.

Arakanese farmers, especially in the predominantly Rohingya townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, are also too afraid to return to their fields, and most fishing activities have stopped since the violence broke out.

According to Kaung San, the director of the Wan Lark Foundation, a local humanitarian organization, donations have decreased in recent weeks, despite the need for continuing support for those who are unable to return to work.

Although the government has begun work on building homes to replace those that were destroyed by fire during the clashes, residents of Maungdaw, where 20 villages were burnt to the ground, say that so far only two villages in their township have been rebuilt.

“The government is building about 100 huts in the village of Mayawatty and they say they are going to build another 400,” said Venerable Manisara, the abbot of a Buddhist monastery in Maungdaw that he says is currently sheltering around 360 people.

Meanwhile, 89 people from 18 Hindu families returned to Sittwe yesterday, according to Kaung San, whose group, along with township police, helped the families to temporarily settle at a Hindu temple in the city.

According to official figures, the government has opened 89 camps to shelter 14,328 Arakanese and 30,740 Rohingyas who were displaced by the violence, which left dozens of people dead and many others seriously injured.