IRRAWADDY: Internally displaced people (IDPs) taking shelter in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw in western Myanmar are returning to their homes after the junta lifted travel restrictions following an informal ceasefire with the Arakan Army (AA) at the end of November.
Fresh fighting between junta troops and the Rakhine ethnic armed group flared along the Bangladeshi border in northern Maungdaw in August, forcing more than 1,000 people from border villages to flee to Maungdaw town. Schools in northern Maungdaw were closed due to the fighting.
“The roads have reopened and IDPs are gradually returning to their homes,” said Maungdaw resident and former Rakhine State lawmaker U Maung Ohn, who is helping the displaced people. “Only around 10 [IDP] households are left in Maungdaw town, and they will also return to their homes if someone helps pay their travel costs.”
The regime blockaded all of northern Maungdaw after losing strategic hilltop outposts and other bases to the AA despite its airstrikes.
A resident of Myawady Village in northern Maungdaw said: “Almost all our villagers have arrived back. Roads are open now and cars can pass. There are still regular checks [by regime troops] at Kyeekanpyin and Kyeinchaung checkpoints. And we can carry food supplies now.”
Villages across northern Maungdaw completely ran out of food during the junta’s blockade of roads and waterways.
The regime has now airlifted troop reinforcements to hilltop outposts including Taungpyo and Khamaungseik in Maungdaw. It is also using passenger buses to transport food supplies to its troops deployed near villages in at least four locations in northern Maungdaw, according to residents.