Fighting Closes Schools Ahead of Key Exams in Myanmar’s Chin State

By Lei Lei 20 February 2020

Yangon – Escalating clashes between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Chin State’s Paletwa Township in western Myanmar have forced school closures, the township education officer Salai Aung Min told The Irrawaddy.

“Schools close to the fighting have closed,” said the education officer. The fighting in Paletwa has blocked transport links since the first week of February, leaving the township short of food, including rice.

Deputy Union Education Minister U Win Maw Tun has urged the two sides not to fight near schools. Speaking to the media at the Union Parliament on Wednesday, he said: “Don’t fight near schools. Please allow peaceful study. We hope peace is restored and all children have an opportunity for education.”

He pledged to give special attention to security ahead of the matriculation exams in March, saying that the ministry would make every effort to ensure all students could take part.

Chin State municipal minister U Soe Htet in January told The Irrawaddy that civil servants are refusing to work in Paletwa because of security concerns.

There are 384 basic education schools in Paletwa, but 212 schools had already been closed since 2019 due to a lack of teachersbefore the current clashes.

On Tuesday evening, a 14-year-old in the village of Mee Let Wa was injured in the head by an artillery blast and treated at Paletwa Hospital, according to U Kyaw Aung, secretary of a civil society organization.

Hundreds of Paletwa residents, including children, have been stranded in Kyauktaw for at least two weeks after transport links were blocked.

The Khumi Affairs Coordination Council (KACC), a civil society group in Paletwa, on Wednesday called for the reopening of transport links. It called for both sides to provide humanitarian assistance in Paletwa to allow food to arrive and trapped civilians to return to their homes.

“The exams are drawing near. As travel is constrained, we are concerned for the children,” said the KACC chairman U Kyaw Nyein.

The AA said on the same day that it would provide assistance to ensure transport for health reasons and basic consumer goods.

The statement said recommendation letters would be required from village administrators to transport food from Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw to Paletwa by land or river. It also asked the village administrators to make proper checks to ensure food, medicine and consumer goods are transported for civilian use. The rebel group said it would assist those transporting essential goods.

“The AA said anyone traveling between Kyauktaw and Paletwa for any reason had to report to them. But we don’t know where to report. So ferries are not running for fear that the crews might be shot or arrested,” said U Kyaw Nyein.

Fierce clashes started in Kyauktaw and Paletwa on the border of Rakhine and Chin states nearly two weeks ago.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko 

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