Hundreds of Villagers Continue to Flee Fighting in Rakhine

By Min Aung Khine 24 December 2018

SITTWE, Rakhine State — More than 1,500 people across three townships in northern Rakhine State have been displaced by fighting between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) since clashed broke out in October, according to local civil society groups.

The fighting in Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun and Buthidaung townships has intensified since late November.

Kyauktaw, where more than 1,000 people have fled their homes, has been hit hardest.

On Friday, more than 400 ethnic Khami in Kyauktaw fled Pinnyawa Village to the villages of Thalu Chaung, Taung Min Kalar, Kan Sauk and Nga Sarine Kine after artillery shells landed near their homes.

“Two artillery shells fell just about 20 yards from the village. So villagers did not dare to stay,” said U Wai Kyaw Sein, the administrator of Pinnyawa.

Locals reported hearing artillery fire through Saturday near the village. The AA blamed the shelling on the military, which it said had also attacked by air earlier.

On Tuesday, the entire population of Pyinnagyi fled the village following clashes near the border of Kyauktaw and Ponnagyun townships.

Most of the women and children in the area have fled their villages. Many of the men have stayed behind to mind their farms and cattle.

The military is inspecting all boats travelling between Pinnyawa and Thalu Chaung villages, including those transporting displaced families and relief supplies.

Civil society groups said boats ferrying relief supplies need permission from the state government or the township General Administration Department.

The Irrawaddy could not reach state security officials or Border Affairs Minister Colonel Phone Tint for comment on the reported boat inspections.

On Friday the military declared a unilateral four-month ceasefire, except in Rakhine State. Many have welcomed to move as a chance to make progress on the peace process.

In a joint statement on Dec. 12, the AA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army offered to suspend armed hostilities with the military for a chance to join the process. The government’s Peace Commission welcomed the statement and said it would negotiate with all three armed groups in hopes of reaching bilateral ceasefire agreements with each.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.