In Myanmar’s Chin State, Rain and Attack on WFP Convoy Force Aid Deliveries by Boat

By Thiha Lwin 4 May 2020

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar government plans to ship food supplies to Chin State’s Paletwa Township by boat after a World Food Programme (WFP) aid convoy was recently unable to reach the area by road due to bad weather, government spokesman U Zaw Htay told reporters in an online press conference on Saturday.

Last Wednesday, a WFP aid convoy loaded with rice and other basic foodstuffs was also attacked by the Arakan Army (AA) between Samee and Paletwa towns in Chin State and a driver with the convoy was injured, according to the Myanmar military.

“As it is raining and the road route is not convenient, we are planning to ship by water,” said government spokesman U Zaw Htay.

The WFP convoy consisted of five trucks loaded with 2,000 rice sacks and necessities.

The driver was reportedly injured by broken glass from the front windshield of his truck. Other trucks were also damaged in the attack. The trucks were repaired and arrived at Seint San Wa Village near Paletwa the following day, said Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun.

“We have taken security measures along the route. As [the AA] could not attack with a large force, it carried out sneak attacks as the convoy passed beyond Samee, and it appears that they targeted the WFP trucks,” said the military spokesman.

Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun added that the deliberate attacks on UN vehicles aimed to attract international attention to Rakhine issues, tarnish the images of the government and the military and bring greater international pressure on the country.

On April 20, a World Health Organization (WHO) vehicle traveling from Rakhine State to Yangon with swabs taken from 20 suspected COVID-19 patients was attacked. A driver, U Pyae Sone Win Maung, was fatally wounded and U Aung Myo Oo, a medical officer, was injured.

Both the Myanmar military and the AA denied responsibility for the fatal attack. When asked by the reporters at Saturday’s press conference about the attack, U Zaw Htay answer was short. “It was done by the AA.”

The AA has said that they must be informed in advance if food will be transported into Paletwa for civilians, warning that they will shoot any escorted aid convoy.

“The AA released a statement and said that rice could be transported [into Paletwa] only if they are informed in advance. But in reality, they did not allow transportation,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

The AA said in its statement on April 20 that it would not interfere but would assist as it could with local and foreign organizations and UN aid agencies that provide humanitarian assistance in Rakhine and Paletwa.

Fierce clashes near Paletwa since February between the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, and the AA had effectively blocked transport between Paletwa and the neighboring Rakhine township of Kyauktaw until recently, leaving Paletwa isolated and short of food. The clashes around Meewa Hill, near Paletwa, had blocked transport by water on the Kaladan River.

The first shipment of rice, basic foods and medicines donated by the Chin State government and non-governmental organizations arrived in Paletwa on April 19.

According to the Chin State government, Paletwa is made up of over 400 urban wards and villages and is home to some 100,000 people who are either ethnic Chin or Rakhine. Over 3,600 civilians from rural areas of Paletwa have been taking shelter in urban areas of the town due to clashes between the Tatmadaw and the AA.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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