Rohingya fleeing Myanmar wait for aid at the immigration detention center in Lhokseumawe in Indonesia's North Aceh Regency on June 26. (Photo: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)
The United Nations has raised the alarm over people trapped by fighting as thousands of civilians flee their homes in Myanmar’s conflict-torn western Rakhine state.
The UN is concerned about the continuing humanitarian impact of conflict in Rakhine and Chin states. This concern is further elevated by reports of intensified fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army in and around the Kyauk Tan village-tract of Rathedaung township in northern Rakhine.
It said people were “trapped by the fighting” or lacked the means to move out of its way, with houses and other civilian property reportedly damaged or destroyed by the conflict.
The village-tract and nearby area is home to more than 10,000 people and many in this area have fled their homes, according to the UN, citing local sources.
The report said more than 77,200 men, women and children are displaced across the two states as of June 21, with some 14,500 civilians displaced in Rathedaung.
The UN calls on the parties to the conflict “to respect international humanitarian law, fulfill their responsibilities and take urgent measures to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
“It calls on the parties to facilitate the provision of relief to people fleeing from violence, those trapped in their villages and everyone affected by the conflict,” the organization said in a statement on June 28.
The move comes after local authorities issued a call last week to residents of more than 40 villages to evacuate ahead of “clearance operations.”
The Tatmadaw used the term in 2017 before it organized a bloody crackdown in Rakhine state that led to more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
On June 27, the British, Australian, US and Canadian embassies in Myanmar said they were deeply concerned by reports of military clearance operations along the Kyauktan village-tract.
“We are aware of the historic impacts of such operations disproportionately affecting civilians. The protection of civilians, their property and livelihoods by all parties must be prioritized,” the four countries said in a joint statement.
“The fleeing of villagers along the Kyauktan village-tract will further contribute to Rakhine’s already significant and increasing internally displaced population.”
It said some communities may not be able to seek refuge elsewhere. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict in Rakhine and Chin states.
The four countries said the Myanmar military has obligations under international law and to implement the International Court of Justice (ICJ) provisional measures.
UK-based rights group Burma Human Rights Network said new operations by the army in Rakhine will put countless lives in danger and defy the orders of the ICJ.
Under lockdown and with an internet shutdown in most of the conflict-torn region, reports from the area are difficult to verify.