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More than a thousand people in Burma’s western Arakan State are facing food shortages as ongoing fighting between ethnic militia the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA) and Burmese government forces cuts off access to commercial centres.
Residents from nearby villages have been unable to travel to the main town of Kyauktaw as the Burmese military have shut down the normal waterway routes, according to San Hla Kyaw, a local relief worker.
Those affected reportedly include Arakanese [Rakhine], Mro and Khami ethnic communities from the villages such as Sapaseik, Pechaung, Myaunggyi, Mabyan and Tawpasi between Kyauktaw and Chin State’s Paletwa.
San Hla Kyaw, vice-chairperson of the Arakan Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) relief committee that was formed on 2 May, told DVB: “About six villages in the area have been cut off from the town [of Kyauktaw] as the military have shut down water routes, and ordered local boat operators to halt operations. The villagers who buy their rice from the town are now facing a food shortage,” said San Hla Kyaw.
Hundreds of IDPs who fled their homes when the fighting between government forces and the ALA broke out at the end of March are currently taking shelter in the towns of Kyauktaw and Sapaseik.
Kyauktaw Township’s government administrator Zaw Min Htike told DVB that IDPs in Sapaseik had recently been provided with aid by regional government officials and the World Food Programme.
Meanwhile in Kyauktaw Township, the army detained 11 locals who were suspected of holding rebel connections.
Three local men in the town of Minbya were also arrested by the army for alleged associations with the ALA, including a ward administration official.
Thar Kyaw, Minbya Township’s representative in the Arakan regional parliament, urged the government to ensure that the detained villagers are dealt with in accordance with the law.
“The Lahakye village administrator Win Maung, who is a school teacher from Ngasarai village, and a young man from a DVD rental shop in the town have been in the custody of the army’s Regional Operations Command 9 for about ten days now,” said Thar Kyat.
“I spoke to the town’s government administrator to insist that legal procedures are thoroughly observed, but he told me he can’t do anything about it as they were detained by the army.”
Clashes between the ALA and the Burmese army were initially reported on the 17 and 18 April in what the ALA described as the “longest and fiercest” fighting seen with government forces in the state.