Fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army has produced 226,804 refugees. Despite travel restrictions linked to the pandemic, people are fleeing the violence. The military pledges no ceasefire against "terrorists". NGOs are unable to bring aid.
Sittwe (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than 36,000 people have been displaced in Rakhine state as a result of recent fighting between the Myanmar military and the mostly Buddhist Arakan Army (Aa), the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, a Myanmar-based monitoring NGO, reported.
The conflict, which goes back several years, saw 22,000 people displaced in the month of September alone. By the end of September, the full number of displaced people reached 226,804.
The AA, which a few years ago also battled against the Rohingya, is fighting for the autonomy of its homeland, located in the north-west of the country, on the border with Bangladesh.
According to certain sources, the civilian population has been caught between the need to flee because of the fighting, in particular the military’s shelling, and the requirement to stay home to avoid contacts due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
The government continues to recommend staying indoors, wearing masks and upholding social distancing of two metres, but this is impossible in refugee camps, where displaced people have found shelter.
In recent weeks, the townships of Kyauktaw, Rathedaung and Buthidaung have been the worst affected along with the area around the Kaladan River. By and large, people fled to Sittwe.
To reduce the fighting during the pandemic, the military has declared a ceasefire in several parts of the country, but has excluded Rakhine where it claims it is fighting terrorists.
Meanwhile, the pandemic is worsening the situation for the displaced. Due to health restrictions on travel, humanitarian organisations cannot move freely, making it harder to provide aid to refugees.