Latest Refugees From Myanmar Stranded in Bangladesh, Volunteer Group Says

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 15 February 2019

YANGON — More than 200 refugees who have fled the fighting in Chin State between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) and taken shelter in Bangladesh are receiving no government support and being ordered to leave, according to a volunteer aid group.

The ethnic Chin, Khami, Mro and Arakanese left their homes in the villages of Kin Ta Lin and Kha Maung Wa, in Chin State’s Paletwa Township, on Feb. 3.

“Border Guard Bangladesh said it would not allow anyone, Buddhist or Muslim, to enter Bangladesh. It asked the displaced people to go back to Myanmar or some other place within three days,” said U Win Thein, who leads a Bangladesh-based volunteer group that helps displaced people.

He said officials in Bangladesh’s Bandarban District issued the order during a press conference there on Tuesday. The same day, he added, eight households from among the refugees left for the Indian border and 40 headed back toward Myanmar.

“There is a town called Pi on the Bangladeshi border, and there is a big mountain nearby. Displaced people are staying there, and nearby Mro and Chin villages are supplying them with food. We deliver food to them secretly because we do not have official permission to help them,” said U Win Thein.

Bangladesh Foreign Affairs Minister Abdul Momen told local reporters that his government closed the border gates on Feb. 7 so that no more displaced people could enter the country from Myanmar.

The Times of India reported that Border Guard Bangladesh has also deployed more troops along the border with Myanmar.

AA spokesman U Khaing Thukha said his group had found more than 100 people who had fled Paletwa Township and guided them to Bangladesh, hoping the Bangladeshi government would provide them with humanitarian assistance.

On Feb. 8, however, state-run newspapers reported that the AA had taken more than 200 Paletwa residents to Bangladesh, including 38 primary school students, after abducting them.

U Win Thein said the refugees had planned to find shelter elsewhere in Paletwa or neighboring Kyauktaw Township but thought it too dangerous and finally headed for Bangladesh.

“The UNHCR [the U.N.’s refugee agency] went there to help them, but the Bangladeshi government didn’t let them. The Red Cross also sent three trucks [with relief supplies], but the Bangladeshi government didn’t let them, either,” he said.

“I am afraid we will only be able to provide relief supplies one more time. The problem is that we can’t go to that area. We are not allowed to go there,” he added.

Chin State Social Affairs Minister Pau Lun Min Thang said he had little information about the refugees’ current situation.

“So far we have not received any update about them, and we don’t know if they went to Bangladesh by themselves or if they were brought there by the AA,” he told The Irrawaddy.

He said the Myanmar military had increased security in Kin Ta Lin and Kha Maung Wa villages and that the state government was taking care of more than 3,000 displaced people taking shelter at camps in Paletwa.

“All the state government can do is help the people who are in trouble. The lives of many young people have been ruined by the fighting. I am sorry for that. We can do nothing so long as there is fighting. I hope peace talks are held as soon as possible,” the minister said.

Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry could not be reached for a comment.

Fighting between the Myanmar military and AA has forced more than 1,000 people from their homes in Rathaedang, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw and Ponnagyun townships over recent months.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.