Red Cross Aid Convoy Hit by Roadside Blast in N. Rakhine

By Moe Myint 28 June 2019

YANGON—A truck in an aid convoy dispatched by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was struck by a roadside bomb while traveling through a contested area in northern Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township on Thursday night. No one was injured in the blast, according to the aid agency.

An ICRC communications official in Yangon confirmed to The Irrawaddy that one of six trucks comprising the convoy was hit, but said all the drivers were safe and escaped injury. He said that according to Rakhine-based ICRC officials, the convoy was carrying aid supplies to Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township.

The Yangon ICRC official acknowledged that the trucks in the convoy were not official ICRC vehicles and did not bear the agency’s insignia. He said private truck owners were contracted to deliver the humanitarian aid into the conflict zone based on their own logistics plan. The ICRC was not directly involved in the planning and none of its employees was present, the official said.

“We have no idea which group is behind the attack,” said the ICRC official, who asked not to be named given the sensitivity of the case.

Kyauktaw-based social activist Ko Zaw Win said a convoy was passing Taung-U and Kyauk Kyat villages near the boundary between Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw townships at about 10 p.m. on Thursday. He put the number of trucks at seven. He said the trucks were covered with tarpaulin and confirmed that they bore no insignia. He explained that relief convoys normally only passed through the area by day, as it has been under a night-to-dawn curfew since April. The measure was imposed amid an intensification of the conflict dating back to early this year.

“People here never thought that private trucks would try to cross through a fierce battle zone at night,” Ko Zaw Win said.

Office of the Commander-in-Chief spokesman Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy’s Burmese edition that the attack was carried out by Arakan Army (AA) rebels. He accused the AA of remotely detonating three landmines near Kyauk Kyat Village and shooting at the lead truck. He said the windshield of that truck was shattered but no one was killed.

AA spokesman U Khine Thukha denied the army’s accusation as groundless. He claimed that Myanmar army troops were fully deployed along the Sittwe-Yangon Highway, as serious fighting had broken out in recent days in Taung-U and near the Mahamuni pagoda. The AA spokesman said that due to the curfew, most private vehicles drive through the region in the daytime, with army trucks being the exception.

U Khine Thukha claimed that the AA has a policy of not targeting international humanitarian agencies, emergency rescue teams or civilians in conflict zones.

The armed clashes between the AA and the military have so far displaced more than 40,000 people, and more than 100 schools have had to delay their reopenings for the new academic year from the first week of June until this week.

The National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government is currently blocking Internet access in eight conflict-affected townships in northern Rakhine and in neighboring Chin State’s Paletwa Township. The move has created an information blackout in the area, prompting rights groups to urge the government to end the ban, which they say violates the UN’s human rights resolutions.

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