Nearly 7,000 ethnic Chin people living in Rakhine State have had to flee fighting between the Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA) and are in need of emergency assistance, civil society organizations (CSOs) said.
The Burma Army and the AA have clashed in Rakhine State since the end of 2018, leading to the displacement of some 150,000 people in the state.
“Chin ethnic people are a minority in Rakhine State. Media outlets cannot cover their situation. Another thing is that humanitarian assistance hasn’t reached these people,” Salai Tun Hla Kyaw, the chairperson of the Chin University Students in Rakhine State (CUSR) said, adding that neither local groups or NGOs could reach them. “They struggle to get basic food,” he added.
The internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Chin community used to live in the townships of Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Ann, and are now staying camps, churches, and even as far away as Magwe Region.
The government has shut off the internet in nine townships in Chin and Rakhine states due to the ongoing conflict. According to Salai Tun Hla Kyaw, IDPs are unable to get online and remain unaware of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to prevent it.
“There is no COVID-19 awareness campaign effectively taking place in Rakhine State, especially, in the IDP camps,” he explained.
More than 50 CSOs released a statement on March 26 condemning the shutdown of the internet during the public health crisis surrounding coronavirus. They described the action as inhumane.
CUSR chair Salai Tun Hla Kyaw said that in addition to humanitarian aid, a COVID-19 awareness campaign was necessary for IDPs, and financial and technical support would be needed.
Khonumthung News repeatedly called Pon Bwi, the Chin affairs minister in Rakhine State, but at the time of reporting had received no response.
There are an estimated 150,000 Chin people in the state.