Recent public activities for Christmas and New Year were not able to be held in the southern Chin State town of Paletwa due to ongoing conflict between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army, as well as a curfew imposed in the area.
Local authorities have enacted a curfew under Section 144 of the Criminal Code for “security reasons,” prohibiting people from going out between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. and from holding public gatherings of more than five people.
As a result, churches could not hold evening Christmas celebrations in 2019, as they traditionally had done in previous years.
“We could not hold New Year festivities like last year. But privately, families welcomed the New Year in their homes,” local pastor Mozart told Khonumthung News, adding that Christmas was celebrated in the same way. “The government didn’t say we were not allowed to hold these festivities but they said that they didn’t take any responsibility [for what would happen if we did]. So we were afraid to hold these festivities,” he explained.
Paletwa’s curfew was imposed by the township general administrator Koe Aung on November 9. He has defended these measures, claiming that the Arakan Army plants landmines, targets civilians and launches ambushes against the Tatmadaw before re-entering the civilian population.
“Everyone has their own difficulties, like traveling and doing business. Restrictions are everywhere,” a local civil society member in Paletwa told Khonumthung News.
As fighting between the Burma Army and Arakan Army continues, locals have been reported disappeared and others have been injured or killed by landmines.
Thirty-three-year-old Hawi Tin stepped on a landmine near Nga-Shar village in Paletwa on January 7, enduring injuries to her face and her right leg. The same day, a man, Arbyayla, of Sihpalaung village, disappeared on his way back from Paletwa town.
The Burma Army has alleged that the Arakan Army is planting mines and abducting people. Arakan Army spokesperson Khine Thukha told Khonumthung News that Tatmadaw soldiers have committed these crimes while pretending to be Arakan Army troops.