Rakhine Parliament Speaker: Myanmar Govt Must Do More to Help IDPs

By Lawi Weng 18 February 2020

The speaker for Rakhine State’s parliament has asked the Myanmar government to help ethnic Rakhine internally displaced people (IDPs) in need of food as fighting between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army (AA) has displaced over 100,000 people.

Before the state parliament adjourned on Monday, speaker U San Kyaw Hla said that IDPs in Rakhine receive only 300 kyats (US$0.21) from the government per day for food, which is not enough.

“They have abandoned their houses and land and run away for their safety. Among the IDPs are people whose children were killed. There are also IDPs who have been wounded,” said U San Kyaw Hla. “We should all have the sympathy to help them.”

The lawmaker asked the government to let international humanitarian organizations help IDPs in Rakhine because, though the government is best situated to help IDPs, it has had problems providing them with enough food.

“There are humanitarian organizations based in our region that have permission from the government to operate and wish to help our IDPs. They have enough money to help our IDPs. But we have found that when they ask permission from the government to provide food for our IDPs, it takes too much time to receive a response,” said U San Kyaw Hla.

The Rakhine State speaker is a member of the Arakan National Party (ANP) and was appointed to the position after his party won a majority in Rakhine in 2015.

Though the ANP has a majority in the Rakhine State parliament, U San Kyaw Hla said the government does not respect the voice of the parliament and questioned whether the country’s democracy has already begun to fade.

Fighting between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army, which is seeking autonomy in the country’s west, broke out in late 2018 and has since escalated. On Feb. 3, the government shut down internet access in five townships in the region, including Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Rathedaung and Myebon in Rakhine and Paletwa in Chin State.

On Feb. 13, 21 children at a primary school in Buthidaung were wounded when an artillery shell struck the school.

“It was a sad coincidence that on [Myanmar’s] Children’s Day an artillery shell fell onto a primary school and struck [the students],” U San Kyaw Hla said. He added that the incident was made worse because there was no investigation into who fired the shell.

“You cannot do whatever you want to do just because our region has armed conflict,” the speaker added.

“It is also not okay to attack your enemy from pagodas,” he said, referring to fighting between the army and the AA in the ancient city of Mrauk-U.

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