Myanmar border authorities have started building 30 new patrol stations along the country’s border with Bangladesh in an effort to beef up security in the volatile northern part of Rakhine state following deadly attacks on border police earlier this month, a government official said Friday.
The new stations will be built along the border in Maungdaw township as a security measure for displaced residents when they return home, said Chan Thar, Rakhine state’s social welfare minister.
There are already 96 border patrol stations in the area, he said.
“We have been building 30 more security posts, so there will be 126 posts,” he said. “We started building them yesterday. We will deploy more security police as well.”
Army soldiers and police swept into the area after the deadly Oct. 9 raids on three border patrol stations in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships during which nine officers died.
Clashes between security forces and groups of armed men that followed have forced thousands of residents to flee to other parts of Maungdaw, neighboring Buthidaung township, and Rakhine’s capital Sittwe.
Security forces, who have so far killed about 30 alleged insurgents and captured 29 others, have locked down the area to hunt for roughly 400 others involved in the attacks, whom they believe to be local Muslims who have received funding and training from Islamists abroad.
About 3,000 residents have fled the hostilities and sought refuge in monasteries, schools and other public buildings in other parts of Maungdaw, in neighboring Buthidaung province, and in the state capital Sittwe.
“Women and children who stayed in Maungdaw returned to their homes yesterday now that their villages are peaceful and more secure,” said Min Aung, Rakhine’s city development minister.
Most of the 1,100 displaced people staying in Sittwe have registered with authorities to return to their homes, he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The state government will provide security to ensure they return safely and will supply them with food for two weeks, he said.
The hundreds of state-run schools that authorities closed after the attacks will reopen on Monday and Tuesday, he said.
Humanitarian organizations, however, contend that the violence has displaced some 3,000 ethnic Rakhine people and as many as 15,000 Rohingya, according to a news release issued Friday by Human Rights Watch.
The New York-based group called on the Myanmar government and army on Friday to ensure that food aid deliveries reach the Rohingya and other vulnerable groups, despite security measures that have cut off assistance to people.
“Recent violence in northern Rakhine State has led the army to deny access to aid agencies that provide essential health care and food to people at grave risk,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director.
The United Nations’ World Food Programme said that although the government has recently permitted the resumption of food assistance to 37,000 people in Buthidaung township, 50,000 people remain without food aid in Maungdaw township, according to HRW's news release.
Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin states share an approximately 200-mile (320-kilometer) border with Bangladesh, much of it mountainous.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.