Myanmar Troops Order Civilians to Leave Rakhine Camp: Witnesses

By Min Aung Khine 28 January 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine State – Myanmar’s military on Saturday evening ordered internally displaced people (IDPs) to leave their camp in the village of Sahnyin in Rakhine State’s Myebon Township, according to the IDPs and humanitarian organizations.

More than 500 people from nearby villages are taking shelter at the camp due to the fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army.

Around 100 troops came to the camp on Saturday, threatening to destroy tents, according to camp residents.

“Soldiers shot into the air and told us to come out. They said they did not want to see us here the next day and would destroy our tents,” said Daw Moe Than Tin, who is originally from Li Thun Village.

“We had to flee our homes due to heavy clashes. They say we can’t stay here but where are we supposed to go? We have no food and are helpless,” she told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

According to the IDPs, the soldiers destroyed three temporary shelters made from bamboo.

On Monday, around 20 troops of Myanmar’s Light Infantry Division 66 came to the camp and told people to leave, according to Ashin Thabawa Nadi, a Buddhist monk helping the IDPs.

The troops said Rakhine State’s military-appointed minister for security and border affairs had not permitted the camp to be opened, the monk added.

“Yesterday [Monday], troops counted the people. They said an IDP camp cannot be opened there because the security and border affairs minister had not given permission. When the IDPs asked to see an official notice and asked the minister to offer an alternative site, the soldiers said they would report to their commanders,” said the monk.

“I think they just came to instill fear in IDPs,” he added.

In Rathedaung Township, residents from several villages also fled from their homes after Myanmar troops entered a village on Friday.

Lower House lawmaker U Pe Than of Myebon Township said it was unacceptable to abuse civilians.

“The government is responsible to help the IDPs. But now, far from helping them, they are forced and threatened to leave their camp. This tarnishes the image of the government and the Tatmadaw [military], which is a government body,” U Pe Than told The Irrawaddy.

The military’s Western Command spokesman, Colonel Win Zaw Oo, Rakhine State Minister for Security and Border Affairs Colonel Min Than and Rakhine State government spokesman U Win Myint were unavailable for comment.

Although the Rakhine State government has said it is working to accommodate the IDPs, civilians are normally forced to find their own shelter.

Rakhine State Municipal Minister U Win Myint earlier told The Irrawaddy that the state ministers had not visited northern areas of the state since the hot season last year due to the fighting.

The Rakhine Ethnic Congress on Jan. 25 said more than 160,000 people had fled their homes in northern Rakhine State since late 2018.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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