Rakhine IDPs Top 160,000; More Aid Needed

By Min Aung Khine 29 January 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine State—The number of local residents displaced by fighting between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine State has risen to over 160,000, the Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC) said on Saturday.

Most of the increases were reported in Ann, Myebon, Minbya, Rathedaung and Pauktaw townships. Locals there fled from their homes primarily due to military troops entering their villages, artillery shells falling near their villages and because of concerns over instability in the area, said REC chairman U Shwe Phaw Sein.

The REC is a civil society organization based in the state capital of Sittwe and has been assisting internally displaced people (IDPs) affected by the fighting in northern Rakhine.

“Considering the situation on the ground, it is likely that the number [of IDPs] may increase because local residents are extremely concerned about military troops entering villages, fighting near their homes and interrogating villagers based on suspicion [alone],” he said.

IDPs in northern Rakhine State have received little assistance from the government and have had to rely primarily on aid from civil society organizations and international donors.

But the Rakhine State Disaster Management Department has provided over 2.5 billion kyats (US$1.7 million) worth of food supplies and relief aid to IDPs, according to the head of the department, U Ye Min Oo.

According to the department, there were 125 IDP camps in northern Rakhine on Jan. 22 providing shelter to 49,221 IDPs—far fewer than the number given by the REC.

“Our list [of IDPs] is based on the lists of township and village administrative bodies,” said U Ye Min Oo.

The REC said its list of IDPs is longer than the government’s because it counted residents trapped by the fighting in remote areas, those staying with relatives and friends and those staying at monasteries and religious buildings, in addition to those in IDP camps.

“They need many things. Only the camps that are close to motor roads or recognized by the government receive aid. Those in remote areas, at monasteries and near rivers mostly have to rely on local communities and only seldom receive aid from civil society organizations,” said U Shwe Phaw Sein.

U Wai Hla Aung, the manager of Tein Nyo Camp in Mrauk-U Township, says his camp, which houses 3,250 people, is short on drinking water and food.

“We need many things. Food supplied by the International Committee of the Red Cross is running out. As there are many people at the camp, we have problems with drinking water,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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