Sunday, July 21st 2024

Myanmar junta orders evacuations around state capital



AFP, The Dhaka Tribune, June 14, 2024


Myanmar's junta has ordered thousands of people living outside a state capital threatened by ethnic rebels to leave their homes and head into the city, residents said on Friday.

 

Sittwe city is one of the few holdouts for junta troops in western Rakhine state, where the military has lost swathes of territory to the Arakan Army (AA) in recent weeks.

 

The AA, which says it is fighting for autonomy for the state's ethnic Rakhine population, has vowed to capture Sittwe, home to an India-backed deep sea port and around 200,000 people.

 

Residents of 15 villages around Sittwe were given five days to leave their homes and move to the state capital, a resident of one of the villages told AFP.

 

"The army threatened to shoot and kill if they found someone after the deadline" which expires on Saturday, she said, requesting anonymity due to fear of arrest.

 

A resident of Sittwe put the number of villages ordered to evacuate at around 10, saying that residents had been told "to move out for security reasons" by Saturday.

 

The villages were home to around 3,500 people, the Sittwe resident said, requesting anonymity. They added the military had not arranged for temporary shelters in Sittwe. "People have to move to their relatives' homes from other villages," they said.

 

Local media also reported the order to evacuate villages in the area. AFP was unable to reach a junta spokesman for comment.

 

In November, the AA launched a wave of attacks on the military across Rakhine, shattering a ceasefire that had largely held since the military's 2021 coup.

 

It has since seized territory along the border with India and Bangladesh, piling further pressure on the junta as it battles opponents elsewhere across the Southeast Asian country.

 

It has also held the town of Pauktaw, around 25km from Sittwe, since January. AFP images from the town last month showed gutted buildings, vacant windows and blocks bombed to rubble by the fighting, which has emptied the fishing port of its residents.

 

This month, the AA said junta troops had killed more than 70 civilians in a raid on Byain Phyu village, north of Sittwe.

 

The junta said the claim was "propaganda" and accused AA fighters of launching attacks on Sittwe from surrounding villages.

 

Phone and internet services have been all but cut off across Rakhine state, making it difficult to verify reports of violence.

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