Clashes between the Burma Army and the insurgent Arakan Army (AA) just across the border in Rakhine State have forced hundreds of villagers in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township to flee their homes.
Around 200 residents of Bawngwa, a village in Paletwa that lies right on the border between the two states, fled the area on Tuesday as the sound of heavy gunfire intensified, local sources told Khonumthung News.
The villagers said they started hearing heavy artillery fire around their village on August 5. Fearing that they might get caught up in the fighting, a total of 204 villagers from 37 families fled from Bawngwa to the village of Out-thae-mawa.
“They are fighting in Rakhine State. It’s not that far, but it’s not really close. Bamar [Burma Army] soldiers are deployed in Out-thae-mawa and AA soldiers have a camp near Bawngwa. The people living there were worried that clashes would soon reach them, so they came here,” said a resident of Out-thae-mawa who spoke to Khonumthung News.
There are nearly 90 houses in Bawngwa, which has total population of over 400 people. Many of those who didn’t go to Out-thae-mawa are said to be sheltering at a nearby school, while others are staying with relatives in other villages.
Last month, the AA took a youth leader and three other villagers from Bawngwa into custody. They have not been seen since they were taken into AA custody on July 16, and their families have expressed concern for their safety.
“Four AA soldiers came to the village on two motorbikes. They left their motorbikes in the village after they arrested four villagers, including a youth leader. Their wives are so worried about their husbands,” said a resident of Bawngwa.
The AA said it would eventually release the four men, but has given no indication of when that will happen.
Burma Army and AA forces also clashed near the villages of Namada and Ahtetpi in Paletwa Township on August 5. Meanwhile, clashes between the two forces have also intensified in northern Rakhine State’s Minbya Township in recent days.
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