MOHAMMAD ZIAUDDIN | REPORTS out of the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh usually focus on the massive humanitarian efforts carried out by host country and its international partners. Together, they have supplied food, education, housing and medicine for hundreds of thousands of people with no other place to go. Even more remarkable is what has not happened….
MOE MYINT IN YANGON |
ABOUT 250 newly displaced Arakanese and ethnic Chin from Chin State’s Paletwa Township were driven from their homes into neighboring Bangladesh last week by fierce fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA). Some of the children in the group are reportedly gravely ill as the refugees lack food, clothing and shelter in the area’s cold conditions, a rights worker said.
Medical and other aid workers were reportedly trying to reach the group, but the area they have fled into is extremely difficult to reach.
Win Thein, a member of Bangladesh’s Bandarban District Human Rights Commission based in Ruma upazila (sub–district), told media that over the weekend he met with the displaced villagers near a small village in a densely forested area known locally as Thuisa Para, about 11 km from the Remakri BGB (Border Guards Bangladesh) Camp.
He said that according to the displaced people, the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) torched homes in Kha Maung Wa village and Kin Tha Lin village in the upper Paletwa region last week. A group of 124 ethnic Chin arrived in Bandarban District’s Ruma Township on Sunday. The following day, 126 Arakanese people from various villages entered the same area.
“We can’t reach that region by car or boat; trekking is the only option. If we travel from Ruma Township it takes almost one day,” Win Thein said.
Medical and other aid workers were reportedly trying to reach the group, but the area they have fled into is extremely difficult to reach — all refugees are temporarily camping near a stream without enough food, tarpaulins or blankets — the group included 60 children, including a few new–born’s
According to initial reports from Ruma residents, the IDPs trekked for a couple of days to reach the Remakri region from the western Myanmar border. Relief groups could not reach Remakri by car; they had to take a boat trip from Ruma town and then make a six–hour trek to reach Thuisa village. The IDPs had been denied entry by local residents due to a lack of facilities there. Thus, all refugees are temporarily camping near a stream without enough food, tarpaulins or blankets.
Win Thein said the group included 60 children, including a few new–born’s. The refugees were without blankets or warm clothes. He said that their lack of warm clothing posed a threat of pneumonia among the children, adding that about five of the children had been unconscious since Monday.
AA Chief Urges Arakanese Not to Fall into Army Trap in RakhineAA chief Tun Myat Naing. / The Irrawaddy76The head of the Arakan Army (AA) has called on the Arakanese people not to let their emotions lead them to become involved in the conflict in Rahkine State.AA chief Tun Myat Naing spoke for 20 minutes in a video posted on the AA’s Facebook page in which he described the conflict between Muslims and the Myanmar Army in Rakhine as a “political trap.” The video has attracted more than 200,000 views.“The enemy has surrounded our Arakan land,” Tun Myat Naing said, referring to the Myanmar Army in Rakhine.“There are many conflicts in Arakan. For example, the problem of the Kalar (a derogatory term used against those of South Asian descent, and increasingly as an anti-Muslim slur) is a political trap for us. It has divided our people. We give warning to our people. This is a sensitive issue, and we should not become involved emotionally,” he said.“Whenever there has been a conflict with the Kalar, they [the Myanmar Army] have wanted to create a split between the AA and the world. They have tried to lead us into an international trap,”he said.Tun Myat Naing said he had warned the leaders of the AA as well not to become entangled in the “Kalar conflict.” “The Myanmar Army is the only party mixed up in this fight. They are the ones who took our land and our natural resources. They are the ones who are involved in this current conflict. But, they have tried to trap us and drag us into it as well,” he said.The AA intends to protect the land of Arakan and the Arakanese people, but the rebel group will stay on the sidelines whenever conflict breaks out between Muslims and the Myanmar Army in Rakhine State, he said. “This has prompted some people to criticize the AA. But we need to be careful with our political stand. They [the Myanmar army] attacked those Kalar with the intention of protecting the land for themselves and to keep it for themselves. It was not to defend our people. Our people must understand this,” Tun Myat Naing, said.The AA chief said that some people have come to question the AA, asking why it had not returned “to protect our land.”“For our side, we have enough armed forces to protect Buthidaung and Maungdaw even though we do not have enough to protect the whole of Arakan,” Tun Myat Naing said.“When our AA did not get involved in the Kalar conflict, to avoid this trap, some of our people may have misunderstood our viewpoint.”He said that some Myanmar military leaders who were also members of the government had repeatedly claimed the AA had an alliance with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the Islamist group whose attacks against government outposts in August triggered the latest crisis in Rakhine.“They do not have it in their minds to solve this conflict, which needs a political solution. They stir up trouble all the time as they do not want to solve this political conflict through political means. For our Arakanese people, we need to solve this conflict by staying united. We need to overcome this problem by working together as a unified force.”The AA is an armed ethnic group has its origins in Rahkine State, but is based in Laiza in Kachin State. The AA established an armed force in 2011, and has said it planned to return to its homeland since 2014.The AA has widespread support among the Arakanese despite a crackdown by the Myanmar Army that has seen dozens of people arrested and imprisoned on charges of unlawful association.Since they were formed as an armed group the AA’s stated intention has been to return “the motherland” to the Arakan people. It has used the Paletwa region as a staging area for its operations.Tun Myat Naing asked his Arakanese people to treat ethnic Chin people who live on “Arakan land” better despite the Chins dislike for his army’s base in Paletwa.“Paletwa is an important territory for the AA as we have our political base there, and we can get food for out troops to survive there. It is important to avoid having conflict or arguments in the area. We should not attack ethnic Chin people who stay in Arakan. We should all stay united and stay together with them. We need to treat them like brothers. There are bad and good people in every ethnic group. The Chin who stay in Arakan do not have to be worried about their security,” he said.Fighting between the AA and Myanmar Army broke out in Paletwa and Myeik Wa near the Indian border in the first week of November, and has continued for 40 days, according to the AA.“Our Arakan dream is that we will take back Arakan in 2020. This message is for our people. Everyone needs to have this dream. It is important for our people to follow your duty to fight to take back your land. It will not be easy to win back our land and to build a new home. We need to do it systematically,” Tun Myat Naing said.Topics: Ethnic conflict https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/aa-chief-urges-arakanese-not-fall-army-trap-rakhine.html
Posted by Voices of Arakan on Monday, 11 December 2017
■ Arakan Army chief Tun Myat Naing spoke for 20 minutes regarding recent conflict in a video post on the AA’s Facebook page
When he returned to Ruma town from Remakri, he sent doctors and other relief workers to rescue the children and provide some emergency medical aid to the refugees.
He explained that the climate in the mountains in the area at this time of year is very cold, not unlike the hilly region of Shan State in northern Myanmar.
The refugees were not allowed to enter Thuisa village as it does not have sufficient shelter for them, and the entire village relies on shifting cultivation and growing seasonal fruits. “All they have are machetes and bamboo baskets. That’s all I could see,” he said.
Displaced Arakanese villagers had initially wanted to flee to the nearest townships, Kyauktaw and Paletwa, but as the fighting had been going on for several days, they decided to cross the Bangladesh border and trekked for two days. On the way to Bandarban district, they met up with AA soldiers on the Myanmar border, who provided them some rice
“I have no idea what’s happening there right now because that region is out of the range of telecom networks,” Win Thein said.
Another activist from Ruma, Aye Tun, also went to meet the displaced Arakanese and Chin people in the Remakri region. He said arrangements were being made to transport tarpaulins to the refugees so they could put up modest temporary shelters near the stream.
He said that some local Marma people were helping by giving food to the refugees. The authorities had provided no support or humanitarian assistance to the refugees as of Wednesday. Despite the presence of Bangladesh border guards in the region, however, the refugees were not being driven back into Myanmar. Aye Tun said that the local Marma and hill tract people of Bangladesh are familiar with the Arakanese and Chin, and willing to assist the refugees.
“Even the adults could not stay longer without warm clothes in that densely forested area; just imagine the kids without blankets at night and sleeping on the ground,” Aye Tun said.
Army Detains Teachers, Villagers as Dozens Flee Fighting in N. Rakhine https://t.co/uADulIdofb
— Arakan Indobhasa (@ArakanIndobhasa) January 30, 2019
District Human Rights Commission member Aye Thein said he was told by refugees that Myanmar Army soldiers set some homes alight in Kin Ta Lin village, which is home to 40 families, and Kha Maung Wa, which has 60 homes. It was unclear Wednesday whether the entire villages had been burned to the ground.
He said the displaced Arakanese villagers had initially wanted to flee to the nearest townships, Kyauktaw and Paletwa, but as the fighting had been going on for several days, they decided to cross the Bangladesh border and trekked for two days. On the way to Bandarban district, they met up with AA soldiers on the Myanmar border, who gave them some rice.
Arakan Army spokesman U Khine Thuka told media that the group was taking care of about 120 displaced villagers from Paletwa in its area of control on the Myanmar border. He explained that based on their own accounts, the refugees had been in a chaotic situation since the fighting broke out, with families being separated.
Aye Thein said that Bangladeshi authorities summoned Myanmar’s envoy to Bangladesh at least twice in recent days to discuss the new refugee arrivals in Bandarban District. He said they reminded the envoy that Myanmar has still not repatriated the nearly 800,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh in 2017, and was now allegedly driving ethnic groups out of its territory again.
“The Bangladesh authorities are now really mad at the Myanmar Army, as it is creating more troubles for Bangladesh,” he said.
Human rights activists on ground hope both Myanmar and Bangladesh authorities not to block aid shipments to the region. If they fail to transport necessary medicines and food to the refugees, the children who had just moved into a cold climate from a tropical zone were at risk of developing deadly pneumonia. ■