More Civilians Displaced Amid Fresh Fighting in Paletwa
More Chin civilians are fleeing remote villages in Paletwa Township as there have been more reports of intensified fighting between the Arakan Army and Burmese military across the region over the past week.
A total of 11,160 people, including women and children, are now confirmed to have taken shelter in 9 known locations inside Paletwa Township after fresh fighting in the last four days have displaced hundreds of new families from their villages. Paletwa and Sami continue to host the largest numbers of IDPs with the latest figures from Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) showing 5050 and 2931 persons having taken shelter in the Township’s two biggest towns respectively. An additional 200 families have permanently relocated to Thantlang Township’s Tikir Village while around 100 more families have made it as far as Yangon.
“We could hear thunderous sounds of heavy weapons being fired in the fighting around Paletwa Town almost every day of the last four days,” says a local resident of Paletwa, who spoke to CHRO on condition of anonymity on Saturday.
A source inside the Chin State government has confirmed that a TV Tower in Paletwa was knocked down and destroyed by artillery fire.
Local sources have said that the Tatmadaw is using fighter jets to pound AA positions near Paletwa Town.
In a live internet interview with the Hakha-based news outlet Chinland Post on Saturday, State Minister U Soe Htet who is the official spokesperson for the Chin State government blamed the AA for using unconventional warfare tactics in the fight against the Burmese military.
“Of all the other ethnic armed groups in the country, AA is the only force that is using civilian populated areas such as towns and villages as a cover to launch military attacks against the Burmese army as its primary warfare tactics. The Tatmadaw has to retaliate and fire back at the positions where it is being fired upon. This is why we have such high number of civilian casualties,” says the Minister who served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Burma Army for almost 30 years. Before his appointment to the Chin State Cabinet two years ago, U Soe Htet, in a civilian capacity, also served as the Deputy Director General of Amyotha Hluttaw, the Burmese Upper House of Parliament.
At least 34 civilians have died and more than 40 injured in the last two months in Paletwa Township alone, primarily as a result of Tatmadaw’s indiscriminate aerial bombings of civilian areas.
Meanwhile, aid workers based in the areas are increasingly concerned about the delivery of food and basic items to IDPs communities in Paletwa as the two main access routes into Paletwa remain virtually blockaded by both warring parties. These concerns are heightened by the fast approaching monsoon season, which will create more problems for IDP communities for access to basic needs such as food and shelters.
On May 9, the Burmese military, citing the need to focus on the fight against COVID-19, declared a nation-wide unilateral ceasefire but the truce did not cover Rakhine State and Chin State’s Paletwa Township.# c