Junta reopens roads but keeps aid pathways closed following temporary ceasefire in Rakhine State

Despite the temporary ceasefire agreed to between the junta and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State last month, international humanitarian organisations say that the military has continued to restrict aid access to the region. 

While the military council has since reopened some previously blocked roads and waterways, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Myanmar said in a Monday statement that reaching populations in need in Rakhine State continued to be difficult. The aid organisation attributed this to “the resumption and escalation of fighting” as well as “a restriction on the movement of people and goods, such as medications.” 

“While news of a ceasefire is welcome, the impact of the conflict and ongoing difficulties with the movement of people and goods remain a great challenge for the civilian population,” their statement said. 

MSF Myanmar reported conducting nearly 11,000 medical consultations and interventions across the state in June, but noted that this number had dropped to just over 3,800 by late October, citing an ongoing lack of access. 

This pattern could have “fatal outcomes” for patients, the organisation said. 

After clashes reignited between the AA and the military in September, the junta blocked the transport of emergency aid by international institutions—including the UN—to six townships in northern Rakhine: Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Myebon and Rathedaung. 

Aid access was later also restricted for the townships of Pauktaw and Kyauktaw, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced in a statement on November 23. 

On December 7, UN OCHA expressed optimism that the informal ceasefire between the AA and Myanmar army—declared on November 25—would allow for aid pathways to reopen to reach the nearly 100,000 persons internally displaced in the region by both recent fighting and previous military campaigns.

“[H]umanitarians hope that the ceasefire may allow for the resumption of civilian movement and delivery of life-saving assistance that had been heavily restricted in many townships since September,” the agency said in a statement. 

According to representatives of multiple internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, the military’s administrative mechanism has not provided residents with rice rations in nearly eight months. 

“The displaced people survived on supplies from the World Food Programme because the department of social welfare never distributes rice on time,” a man from Kyauktaw Township’s Wah Taung IDP camp said. “No organisation has come here for a long time since the fighting started again [in September]. We do odd jobs and sell our belongings in order to make ends meet.” 

Arakan Army spokesperson Khaing Thukha said in a November 28 press conference about the ceasefire that IDPs in Rakhine State were in urgent need of food, medicine, clothing, and basic humanitarian services.

If the military’s blockade were to be continued, he recommended that donations to address IDP needs be made through the Rakhine People’s Government, operated by the AA’s political wing, the United League of Arakan. 

Since the temporary ceasefire was agreed upon, the AA announced that its members have been assisting displaced farmers by harvesting their paddy fields. 

Meanwhile, the military has reportedly been replenishing rations and ammunition for its troops by air, water and ground routes, locals said. 

Related Articles

Back to top button