Hundreds Displaced in Recent Myanmar Army, AA Clashes in Need of Assistance

By Nyein Nyein 28 November 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Hundreds of displaced people from Paletwa Township, Chin State, are stranded at Shin Let Wa village near the Kaladan River and in need of support, while reports of others fleeing to India continue.

Since early this month, more than 330 ethnic Chin, Rakhine and Bamar people from Paletwa Township fled their homes due to clashes between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army, according to relief workers.

The Indian Express reported last Friday that more than 1,200 people from Myanmar had sought shelter in Lawngtlai District, Mizoram, northeast India, after crossing the Myanmar-India border.

Until this week, the sound of gunfights could be heard near the border, said Paletwa resident U Kyaw Khin, who is also a member of the Paletwa Township social relief team.

U Kyaw Khin, who went to meet the displaced people in Shin Let Wa last Thursday, said: “The refugees are still stranded on the bank of the Kaladan River. They are sleeping in the school and healthcare buildings.”

They need healthcare, U Kyaw Khin said, as one woman had recently given birth without the assistance of trained medics. Relief groups and the Chin State government have donated medical supplies, but there are not enough healthcare workers in the area to properly treat the displaced.

The route between the inland Paletwa and the border to India has been closed at Kalet Chaung tributary since Nov. 4 by the Arakan Army (AA). On Nov. 5, the AA warned locals to avoid using the waterways on the Kaladan River and nearby tributaries as “the Myanmar Army had intensified offensives in AA-controlled areas.”

“We could not make contact with or visit the villages near the border since Nov. 4,” added U Kyaw Khin.

People who continued using the waterway were sandwiched between the fighting. Two died and three were injured in the second week of November. A college student who was travelling by boat was fatally shot on Nov. 8 and a 60-year-old woman was also shot and killed on a boat on Nov. 11.

The AA has also suffered casualties. Last week, its spokesman said two of its members were killed and four were wounded in the latest round of clashes between the Myanmar Army and its troops in Paletwa and Buthidaung townships.

The clashes between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army in Buthidaung Township in northern Rakhine State have added to the burden placed on local villagers. The area has been restive since Myanmar Army clearance operations following a militant attack in late August, which caused more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

Some 30,000 Arakanese villagers and its subgroups were also displaced, but many have returned to their villages with the help of the government, according to U Tun Aung Thein, a Rakhine State lawmaker from Buthidaung.

U Tun Aung Thein said the majority of those recently displaced to India were likely from Paletwa and not Buthidaung.

Paletwa villagers were also displaced in 2015 when the AA and Tatmadaw forces engaged.