Junta troops arrest hundreds following forced relocations in western Myanmar

About 10,000 residents from 12 villages were recently moved into urban areas of Sittwe in Rakhine state.
By RFA Burmese
2024.06.18
Junta troops arrest hundreds following forced relocations in western Myanmar Ethnic Rakhine villagers arrive at a temporary monastery camp with their belongings on June 29, 2020, in Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar.
(AP)

Junta troops over the last week have arrested and interrogated several hundred people who were recently forced to move into the state capital of western Rakhine state, several people told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday.

About 10,000 residents from 12 villages have relocated over the last week into urban areas of Sittwe ahead of anticipated attacks by the Arakan Army, an ethnic minority insurgent group that has been battling the military for control of territory. 

Last week, RFA reported junta troops told residents of five rural villages to move into Sittwe by Saturday. 

Residents from seven other rural villages have also been forcibly removed into the capital – and many are worried they’ll be arrested at any time by suspicious military troops, several people who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals said on Tuesday.

“The residents of Sittwe are living in fear,” said one woman. 

ENG_BUR_RAKHINE FIGHTING_06182024.2.jpg
People ride trishaws on a road on Sept. 10, 2012, in Sittwe, Rakhine state, western Myanmar. (Khin Maung Win/AP)

Junta forces arrested 10 people on Saturday during an inspection of  Shwe Pyi Thar village in Sittwe, and about 200 locals from Sittwe’s Mingan ward were forcibly taken from their homes on Sunday, another resident said. 

Among them were civil servants and staff members of some international NGOs. Some of them were released on Monday and Tuesday, but most remain at the junta’s Regional Command Headquarters in Sittwe, the resident said.

‘Trapped in Sittwe’

Junta troops are also conducting inspections at monasteries where many of the rural transplants are staying, the resident said.

People are also staying at the homes of close relatives, a woman who recently relocated into Sittwe said.

“We are trapped in Sittwe,” she said. “We had to leave our homes with empty hands, except for the clothes on our body.”The AA ended a ceasefire in November that had been in place during the military’s February 2021 coup d’etat. It now occupies Paletwa township in neighboring Chin state and nine townships in Rakhine state, including three townships that border Sittwe.

A battle between the AA and the junta for control of Sittwe has been anticipated for several months. Junta troops have been preparing for the defense of the city by deploying heavy weapons, warships and ground forces in surrounding villages, several residents said last week.

Currently, junta forces only control Sittwe and Maungdaw townships in Rakhine state – and a fight between junta troops and the Arakan Army for the administrative capital of Maungdaw could also take place soon.

RFA was unable to reach the junta’s spokesperson for Rakhine state, Hla Thein, to ask for his response to the arrests and interrogations.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Matt Reed.

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