April 13, 2021

Send food not bombs to Paletwa

By the Editorial Board

18th April 2020

As civilians continue to flee from conflict areas and seek shelter in larger towns, people in Paletwa Town are facing shortages of food and other basic necessities. The Kaladan River – the main transport route linking Paletwa Town to the outside world – is becoming too dangerous to navigate due to frequent fighting, while the only alternative land route connecting Paletwa to nearby Sami Town is effectively blockaded by both the Arakan Army (AA) and the Burmese military.

Army helicopter hovering over Paletwa

On 29th March, the Arakan Army reportedly intercepted a transport truck carrying 100 bags of rice destined for Paletwa from Sami Town, seizing 20 bags, meant to feed the residents and internally displaced people in Paletwa. In return, the Burmese military has ordered local aid groups not to ship any food supplies to Paletwa for fear that they may end up in the hands of the armed group.

Meanwhile, residents of Paletwa and those recently arriving in the Town from nearby villages to escape fighting in their areas have not received any kind of food assistance for the past three weeks. And because local food stocks have been depleted, up to 10,000 people are now going hungry and are in danger of starvation.

A series of aerial bombing campaigns of Chin villages by the Burmese military over the past one and a half-month has killed at least 31 and wounded 44 people. Among the dead are several women and children, as young as 3 years old. The Arakan Army, on the other hand, are launching deadly attacks on the Burmese troops either from within or in the vicinity of Chin villages, giving the Tatmadaw an excuse to carry out the indiscriminate aerial assaults on civilian populated areas which have resulted in the loss of innocent lives.

An unprecedented call made on 1 April by 18 heads of foreign diplomatic missions in the country to institute a humanitarian ceasefire due to COVID-19 pandemic fears went unheeded by both sides of the conflict.

On Wednesday, 15th April, 139 organizations from within and outside of Burma repeated the call saying that the willful or indiscriminate killings of civilians in the ongoing conflict may amount to commission of war crimes under international law.

On 17th April, the UN office of the high commission for human rights reiterated its call for a ceasefire previously issued by Secretary-General António Guterres, based on the escalating conflict in Chin and Rakhine States.

This is a time for a complete halt to the fighting to prevent thousands of civilians from starving to death amid fears over the COVID-19 outbreak. They should be given a chance to start focusing on protecting themselves from the life-threatening virus. They deserve better. It is time to send them food instead of sending them bombs#


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