Government of Myanmar’s Chin State Asks for Help Finding Missing Civilians

By Chit Min Tun 9 October 2019

YANGON—The Chin State government is continuing to search for local ethnic Chin people who have gone missing amid clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Chin State’s Paletwa Township, in western Myanmar.

Chin State Minister of Municipal Affairs, Electricity and Industry U Soe Htet told The Irrawaddy the state government will request support from the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) to help search for the missing people.

According to the minister, a total of 13 civilians from five villages are missing.

“So far we have found no trace of them and the police and the military can do nothing,” said U Soe Htet. “It appears that we have to ask for the NRPC’s help.”

Some of the villagers have been missing since October 2018, according to a statement issued by the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) on Aug. 12.

According to CHRO Research Officer Salai Tera, civilians have disappeared as recently as last month.

“On Sept. 14, three villagers from Wun Chaung Wa Village in Paletwa Township went by boat to Mrauk-U in Rakhine State to buy rice,” Salai Tera told The Irrawaddy. “On their way back, all three, along with the boat, went missing near Moe Ywa Thit Village on the Rakhine-Chin border. We want the NRPC to negotiate with concerned parties as soon as possible [to help the search for the missing people].”

The ethnic Chin group Khumi Affairs Consultative Council (KACC), the CHRO, and local residents in Paletwa Township have said the missing people were abducted by the AA.

The CHRO also accused the AA of extorting large amounts of money from travelers on the Lemyo River between Chin and Rakhine states and also of robbing travelers of their rice, oil and food.

“We demand the release of [the civilians]. In some places, the AA is taking cover in Chin villages to fight [the military],” said a KACC official who asked for anonymity. “The AA is based in Rakhine villages but when they fight, they take cover in Chin villages. The situation is very bad on the ground.”

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha for comment on the allegations.

The CHRO has recorded the reported disappearances.

On Oct. 5, a couple from Thar Yar Gon Village in Chin State was abducted by the AA on their way to a farm.

On Aug. 9, a 20-year-old man from Than Htaung Village was allegedly abducted by the AA along with his boat on his way back from Mrauk-U.

In the evening of July 16, four motorbike taxi drivers from Baung Wa Village who drove workers to a nearby bridge construction project went missing.

In October 2018, three other civilians, including a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, went missing in Paletwa after they were reportedly trapped amid fighting between the Myanmar military and the AA.

The NRPC has held a series of talks with the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the AA with the aim of establishing bilateral ceasefire agreements between the ethnic armed groups and the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw.

Clashes erupted in Paletwa Township in November 2018 and spread to multiple areas in Rakhine State. The clashes have displaced over 30,000 people in Paletwa and over 50,000 in Rakhine State.

Some schools in Paletwa have been closed for months due to the fighting, and the Chin State government says the state needs around 300 more teachers in its schools.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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