Displaced Southern Maungdaw Township Residents Return Home

By Moe Myint 24 October 2016

Dozens of residents fleeing violence in Arakan State’s Maungdaw Township began returning home with the help of government agencies on Monday after sheltering in Danyawaddy sports ground in the state capital of Sittwe.

Seventeen internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to Maungdaw Township on Monday and a total of 47 people have recently left the Danyawaddy camp, according to Ko Soe Naing, a member of a local civil society organization.

Despite state government transporting dozens of IDPs back to Maungdaw Township, local reports suggest people are still fleeing violence and seeking refuge at Buddhist monasteries in the town of Maungdaw.

Ko Soe Naing said: “All of those [going back] are from the southern part of Maungdaw Township where there are no clashes, unlike the northern part of the township.”

He added that the state government provided sufficient rice for two weeks and other aid for people who wanted to return home to Maungdaw Township. Many people, however, were not willing to accept the government’s offer because of the uncertain security situation.

The Irrawaddy attempted to contact some of the returning IDPs but was informed by aid workers assisting the returnees that they would not be reachable by phone.

Maungdaw District Administrator U Ye Htut declared that the situation in Maungdaw town had returned to normal; government schools reopened Monday and Bangladesh border gates were now open.

U Ye Htut added that the number of IDPs in the area’s monasteries had significantly decreased.

Arakanese social activist Ko Wai Hun Aung corroborated Ko Soe Naing’s claims of ongoing violence. He said Kyee Kan Pyin and Kyet Yoe Pyin villages in northern Maungdaw Township had seen occasional fighting as the military and border police continue the search for alleged assailants and looted firearms.

At least 1,000 Buddhist refugees are currently sheltering in Buthidaung Township monasteries, 100 in Maungdaw Township monasteries and another 1000 remain in Danyawaddy sports ground refugee camp, according to local government and civil society groups.

Self-identifying Muslim Rohingya, who form some 90 percent of the population in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, have also reportedly fled the fighting in rural areas but have been restricted from entering Maungdaw town.

The number of displaced Rohingya remains unknown as access to the area by aid groups and the media is blocked by the military. Muslim community leader Hla Maung told The Irrawaddy last week that Rohingya communities were hiding in jungle areas for fear of being caught up in the security operations.

According to official government statements, 29 suspects have been apprehended from different locations in Maungdaw Township in the last eight days and are being held in police custody in Maungdaw and Sittwe.

On Oct. 19, an army and police combined force detained 11 suspects and confiscated a gun and 11 bullets near Ngakhuya village. The suspects initially confessed their involvement in the Ngakhuya border post attack in October 9.

On the same day, the army shot two alleged attackers wielding machetes near Kyar Kaung village when they refused to surrender to the police.

On Oct. 21, the army captured six suspects in Ngakhuya village and another four suspects were arrested in Zee Pin Chaung village in Maungdaw Township on Oct. 22. The army also detained Maung Maung Sein who lives in Myoma (south) Ward 2 of downtown Maungdaw and confiscated an MA-11 gun with one magazine with 25 rounds of bullets, according to the Ministry of Information.

Including the initial attack on three police border posts on Oct. 9, nine police officers and five soldiers have been killed during the man hunt for the attackers. A total of 30 alleged attackers have also been killed by government forces.