Rangers Document Human Rights Abuses and Help Civilians Caught in Conflict in Arakan State
26 December 2019
Arakan State, Burma
Names have been removed for security purposes.
Civilians in Arakan State continue to suffer the effects of war as conflict between the Burma Army and Arakan Army continues.
Due to the conflict, the number of internally displaced people has grown from 30,000 to 70,000 in the past six months. In November, a team of five rangers conducted a mission in Rathedaung and Mrauk U townships to help civilians caught in the conflict.
The rangers documented human rights abuses inflicted by the Burma Army against the civilian population, including indiscriminate fire into villages, airstrikes, and the placement of landmines. The Burma Army has also abducted civilians, who they attempt to force into identifying and locating Arakan soldiers. This kind of arbitrary abuse has disrupted normal life and cast a pall of fear over the local population.
A 47-year-old man from Kyauk Tan Village was abducted by Burma Army soldiers while farming in a field. The Burma Army soldiers questioned him for information about the Arakan Army. When he was unable to give any information, the soldiers beat him over the head with the butts of their guns. After five days of torture and questioning, the villager managed to escape his captors. Another man, 58 years old, was similarly abducted and tortured for information about the Arakan Army. Both men are civilians and are not associated with the Arakan Army.
When Burma Army soldiers invade and encamp in local villages, the villagers flee. One villager stated, “I and my family left fearfully from the home because Burma Army encamped there. When we are not in the home, the soldiers of Burma Army destroyed all domestic things and shoot the roof by the gun.”
According to the villagers, when the Burma Army encamps in a village, they often take every item of worth and burn the rest. One family’s home and rice supply were burned by the Burma Army.
“We will never satisfy them. Now we have no home to live… I don’t know how to go on and keep my family safe. Save me please!” they said.
The Burma Army set up checkpoints throughout the conflict areas to monitor and control the movement of people and supplies on the roads. The team documented the activities of battalions 637 and 543 in their mission area.
Increased Burma Army presence in the area caused challenges for the ranger mission. During an attempt to visit an IDP camp, the team leader, who travelled alone for security reasons, was followed by Burma Army soldiers, preventing him from entering the camp.
The rangers hosted one Good Life Club (GLC) program and medical clinic, but were prevented from doing more by the heavy Burma Army presence. During the program, the rangers taught good health and hygiene practices and gave snacks, toys, and notebooks to over 200 children in Latma Village. The rangers also distributed medicine and treated over 230 patients. The treatments ranged from prenatal care to care for civilians wounded in the fighting and landmine victims. The rangers said there is a desperate need for food and basic healthcare for those displaced by fighting.
Due to the precarious security situation, the team did not distribute GLC shirts and bracelets. They feared the recognizable shirts would draw unwanted attention from the Burma Army as the Ranger team leader had been questioned at a Burma Army checkpoint about his GLC bracelet. An additional distribution of agricultural supplies was conducted, but outside the village as a security precaution.
Though there are a few NGOs active in the area, more relief is needed. The team leader said the Arakan rangers will continue to operate in the conflict areas in order to bring help, hope, and love to the civilians caught in the conflict.