The Khonumthung News talked with Khine Thukha, spokesperson for the Arakan Army (AA), about the food crisis affecting Paletwa township in southern Chin State. Residents are struggling amidst a severe food shortage after supply lines have been cut off from fighting between the AA and Burma Army for over a month. Prices of rice and other essential rations available in the township have become exorbitant. The state government and community groups are trying to get the rations to the famished township but fighting that has intensified in recent weeks have hindered these efforts. With the Kalandan river route from Kyauktaw to Paletwa blocked by clashes, land routes from Mindat to Matupi to Samee are being reviewed as solutions to alleviate the problem. Some Paletwa residents are on the verge of starvation. Khonumthung News reporter Ko Lalnuna asked the AA spokesperson who’s responsible, and if AA troops are blocking food from reaching the beleaguered township.
The Chin State government said transportation lines to Paletwa township are blocked by the fighting. Is AA stopping boats carrying food and other essential items from reaching the township?
We haven’t prevented water vessels from bringing goods to Paletwa township. For security measures, our troops sometimes inspect boats traversing from Sittwe to Paletwa but we don’t interfere with rations for civilians as long as it’s not destined for the military. They can transport (supplies for civilians). Actually, it’s the Burma Army that is meddling with the boats by allowing only 20 bags of rice per trip.
There are sufficient rice stocks in Sittwe and Samee but riverboat operators are afraid to transport it to Paletwa because of the fighting. What are your thoughts on this?
If locals are transporting the rice and other rations then we won’t block it. But the government needs to inform us in advance because this area is in the conflict zone. If they let us know in advance, they can travel securely. If there is a mutual understanding, everything will run smoothly.
There’s a rumour circulating that AA will allow 6,000 bags of rice to reach Paletwa township. Is it true?
No-one has informed me of this and we haven’t prohibited any civilian food (from reaching Paletwa township).
Paletwa township has been ravished by the conflict. Many are worried about how the fighting will impede on high school students currently taking their final exams.
To allow the examination period to proceed unhindered, I think the Tatmadaw (Burma Army) should stop their offensives for several days. If they do this, the clashes will stop. It depends on them. We’re only defending ourselves against the military’s offensives.