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Updated on June 19, 2020 From The Irrawaddy

Hungry Villagers Flee Fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine

Yangon — Hundreds of villagers in Rakhine State’s Ann Township have left their homes due to food shortages after Myanmar’s military blocked supplies amid fighting with the Arakan Army (AA).

A total of 431 Mingalardon villagers in Ann Township fled following the clashes on June 13, said chairman of the Chin University Students in Rakhine State (CUSR) Salai Tun Hla Kyaw.

“There were clashes on June 13. Villagers were short on food as the Tatmadaw [military] blockaded the area. The villagers are staying at Mya Theintan Monastery in Dallat village-tract. As the Tatmadaw is implementing a ‘four-cut’ strategy, their food ran out and they left their village,” he said.

The four-cut, counter-insurgency strategy aims to cut off food, funds, intelligence and recruits.

Fighting has blocked water transport to the township since December and fierce clashes in February blocked roads, leading to food shortages in the entire Dallat village-tract, said resident Daw Ni Ni Win.

With a population of over 650, ethnic Chin make up the majority in Mingalardon. Most of the 431 villagers who fled are children and the elderly.

The villagers have fled to the monastery about 50 km from their village. Food prices in Dallat have increased significantly with the price of a rice sack increasing from 2,000 kyats to 3,500 kyats (US$1.43 to $2.50) and a gallon of petrol rising from 5,000 kyats to 8,000 kyats ($3.60 to $5.74), according to resident U Thein Maung.

U Maung Maung, who fled Mingalardon, said: “As we frequently heard shelling, we would not go to our plantation. And we were short of food. So we fled to the monastery. Some well-off villagers went to Ann town and Yangon. We need rice. We want the blockade lifted and the troops withdrawn.”

Another villager, Daw May Than, said she ate banana tree stems and fruit from the forest as there was no rice. “There are rice donors, but the routes are blocked for deliveries,” she said.

The military is stationed near the bridge leading to Dallat village-tract, according to villagers.

Salai Tun Hla Kyaw said: “AA troops are deployed upriver from Dallat and the Tatmadaw is below. This puts the villagers in a tight spot. There are rice donors but as it cannot be transported rice sellers in Dallat are not selling their stocks. People will suffer more each day.”

Nearly 2,000 people have left their homes because of clashes in Ann Township, according to the CUSR.

There are 47 villages in Dallat village-tract. Seven of them are Rakhine-majority and the rest are largely ethnically Chin. The village-tract has a population of over 13,000, according to the administrator.

As the government has declared the AA a terrorist organization, The Irrawaddy was not able to contact the armed group for a comment.

IMAGE: Mingalardon villagers at Mya Theintan Monastery. Chin University Students in Rakhine State. / Facebook
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