Myanmar army pressuring Rakhine IDPs to return to military-controlled villages 

Regime forces are threatening to charge civilians displaced by conflict in northern Rakhine State with trespassing if they don’t return to their home villages, according to local sources.

The villagers, who live in several camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state’s Buthidaung Township, have also been denied access to aid, the sources said.

According to one person familiar with the situation, junta authorities summoned officers of four IDP camps on October 19 and told them that people living in them would have to leave or face charges of trespassing.

“How can they go home when there is still the risk of triggering landmines on the way back to their villages? But the military just said they have to go,” said the source, who did not want to be named.

Meanwhile, the military has also reportedly begun making lists of people living in camps in Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U townships in order to pressure them to leave.

A total of at least 3,000 IDPs from more than 20 villages are staying at the Lan Ma Kyaung, Mya Taung, Gandari, and Yan Aung Myay Kyaung camps in Buthidaung alone.

It was unclear what the charges of trespassing would be based on, as the camps are located inside monastery compounds or on other privately-owned land.

“The lands where the camps are set up don’t belong to the government or the military. They’re all on private property,” said one Buthidaung local.

The junta authorities also told camp officials that IDPs deemed to be trespassers would be subject to a 10pm to 5am curfew, a source told Myanmar Now.

The military offered no explanation for why it was trying to empty the camps, but residents say they believe it is because the army wants to use them as human shields amid growing tensions with the Arakan Army.

“They are deliberately putting people in harm’s way. This kind of thing would not be acceptable in most other countries,” said one IDP.

Another displaced civilian also expressed dismay at the prospect of being forced to return to his village under the current circumstances.

“We don’t have any plan to go back home, nor is there any home left for us to go back to. The military is stationed in our village. They say they will ‘provide security’ for us, but it is impossible for us to coexist with them,” he said.

According to reports, regime forces based in the village of San Go Htaung, located east of the town of Buthidaung, have been shelling the surrounding area in recent days.

Meanwhile, the military has also been blocking deliveries of aid to the camps from both local and international relief groups for the past four months, sources said.

In order to meet their basic needs, IDPs have had to try to find day-labour jobs or sell their few belongings, said one displaced villager.

“Some people can find work on construction sites, but there is no regular employment available. Without support, life is even more of a struggle than before. Those who have nothing to sell just have to go into debt,” he said.

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