Volunteers Say Nearly 100,000 People Displaced by Fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

By Htet Naing Zaw 20 November 2019

NAYPYITAW—As many as 100,000 local people have been displaced by clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine State since November last year, according to estimates by volunteers providing humanitarian assistance to displaced people.

Clashes are ongoing across northern Rakhine and fighting has recently intensified in Minbya, Myebon, Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw townships, according to aid volunteers based in the state capital of Sittwe.

“There are thousands of displaced persons in Rathedaung alone. I heard that six or seven villages have fled recently. As many displaced persons have arrived in urban areas of Rathedaung, it is difficult to even accommodate them,” said Daw Khin Saw Wai, a lawmaker with the Arakan National Party representing Rathedaung Township.

“There were artillery strikes by the navy and helicopters also came. I don’t know if those helicopters fired shots but local people were frightened and fled. They also fled from fighting [on the ground]. Many of them have gone into sheer panic and they dare not go back to their homes,” said Daw Khin Saw Wai.

As the war zone has expanded in northern Rakhine, the number of civilians impacted by the fighting has also risen.

According to military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, a fierce clash took place in Myebon on Monday and the fighting lasted for nearly five hours.

“We suffered injuries in the clash,” he told The Irrawaddy. He added that a clash also occurred near the village of Kyauktan in Rathedaung Township in which the Tatmadaw, as the military is known, seized weapons and ammunition from the AA.

“On Sunday, [the AA] carried out artillery attacks on battalion headquarters in Rathedaung, from Nga Tauk To Village in the northeast. It took place at around 11:45 p.m. There were no injuries,” he said.

In a statement on Nov. 16, the AA said the fighting will continue to escalate in northern Rakhine because the Myanmar military has supplied its forces with additional weapons and ammunition.

According to U Tun Tha Sein, a lawmaker representing Mrauk-U Township in the Rakhine State parliament, 80 civilians died and 120 more were injured in clashes in northern Rakhine from November 2018 until mid-June of this year, but the latest figures are still unknown.

Despite the fact that the government, the military and the AA have held negotiations regarding bilateral ceasefire agreements, clashes have only intensified in northern Rakhine State.

The AA was formed by some 20 ethnic Rakhine youth in Kachin State’s Laiza in April 2009. Observers now estimate that the armed group has around 10,000 members. In 2015, the armed group stated publicly that its mission is to fulfill a dream of returning to its homeland, Rakhine State. It started to build a base in Paletwa in Chin State, on the Myanmar-India border, before expanding its presence in northern Rakhine.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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