ASIA/MYANMAR - Violence and tensions in Chin and Rakhine States: food emergency and elections at risk

Tuesday, 27 October 2020 human rights   politics   violence   wars   food safety   elections  

Yangon (Agenzia Fides) – More than 60,000 civilians in the Burmese State of Chin are currently facing a severe food shortage due to the ongoing fighting between the national army and the Arakan Army rebels. This is what the fundamental rights organization Khumi Affairs Coordination Council (KACC) denounced in recent days according to which 246 villages in the Paletwa area are in desperate need of rice and food because of the situation created by the war between the Burmese army and the armed separatist group operating between Chin and Rakhine States in northern Myanmar.
The seriousness of the situation is confirmed to Agenzia Fides by the Caritas headquarters in the Burmese diocese of Pyay. F Fr. Nereus Tun Min, Director of Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (the diocesan Caritas of Pyay) explains: "Last week we organized, also thanks to the help of the government, a large food expedition to Paletwa. We transferred 1,700 bags of rice to the area. However, Caritas is also active in the field of Covid-19 prevention", he adds, in a country that has seen an exponential growth of the pandemic in the last month with more than 40 thousand cases and more than a thousand dead. The distribution in Paletwa is ensured by lay and religious personnel "as in the case of Father Thomas, parish priest - Fr. Nereus - who lives with many displaced people gathered in a complex of his church". The situation is difficult in Chin State, in an area subject to constant bombing and fighting, but it is also difficult in the Rakhine State, along a porous border where, for months now, more weapons and fighters have passed than goods and people.
On the eve of the elections scheduled for November, the tension and violence in the Chin and Rakhine States continue to disturb the promises of peace and democracy proposed by the various political forces. The Union Election Commission - UEC has ruled that voting will not take place in nine of the 17 townships of Rakhine State (the administrative division that corresponds to the electoral districts). The news not only offended local political organizations (which therefore will remain without or almost no representatives in the new Parliament) but was greeted with skepticism also after the Commission rejected the postponement of the election date (set for 8 November) given that the Covid emergency - or a second wave of pandemic - was mainly located in this State of the Union.
This coastal area in northwest Myanmar remains a place of great suffering. A recent report by the NGO Human Rights Watch ("An Open Prison without End") underlines the serious situation in which people live in the Rakhine camps for internally displaced persons, called "open-air prisons" by the HRW organization: these are about 130 thousand Rohingya citizens, members of the Muslim minority victim of violence in 2012 and 2017, which generated about one million refugees who moved to neighboring Bangladesh. (MG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 27/10/2020)