Locals Protest Ongoing Skirmishes in Arakan State

By Moe Myint 7 January 2016

RANGOON — Residents of Arakan State’s Mrauk-U Township held a protest on Thursday against ongoing clashes between the Arakan and Burma armies in nearby Kyauktaw Township.

Rally organizer Kyaw Tun Oo said some 500 residents gathered around noon at Martyr Otama Park. A number of civil society groups also joined the event to register their disapproval.

According to Kyaw Tun Oo, residents demanded an end to the use of villagers as laborers in the conflict and misusing funds generated from natural resources to wage war.

They also called for all of Burma’s ethnic armed groups to come together in political dialogue, emphasizing how military operations only harm ethnic social environments.

Myint Thaung, police chief of Mrauk-U, confirmed that protesters had obtained official permission from authorities ahead of the event.

“Everything’s fine, there are no problems here. The conflict zone is almost 20 miles away,” Myint Thaung said. “The protestors gathered peacefully at the park, and monk U Wana Thara gave a speech.”

More than 300 villagers recently sought shelter at monasteries in neighboring villages, and, according to Khaing Kaung San of the Wunlark Development Foundation, local civil society organizations provided refugees with food, blankets and rice bags.