600 Rakhine refugees at India-Myanmar border urgently need aid

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About 600 Rakhine refugees staying at the India-Myanmar border since fleeing Myanmar Army operations in Chin State in November 2017, are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, according to a local relief worker.

The refugees are staying in Hmawngbuchuuak village, an ethnic Rakhine village in southern Mizoram, about five miles from the Myanmar border. They have been relying mainly on rice donations from local Mizo and Chin church communities, but these are not sufficient.

The refugees are camping in makeshift huts, but about half of the over 170 families do not have plastic sheets for roofing. They have no latrines and have been suffering from diarrhea, which has already killed two elderly refugees and two young children.

The refugees were among about 1,800 mainly Rakhine villagers from six villages — Marei-wa, Satin-wa, Mwelet-wa, Phwelet-wa 1, Phwelet-wa 2 and Pakawa — who fled into India when the Myanmar Army launched an operation against the Arakan Army in Paletwa township in the second week of November 2017.

The Myanmar Army aerially bombed and shelled Marei-wa village, causing all the villagers to flee. The other villages were looted by Myanmar Army troops, and about 40 houses burned down.

The refugees said the Myanmar Army troops which attacked their villages were from Mrauk-U. The troops forced men to be porters, carrying military supplies, and also act as their guides in the forest to look for Arakan Army hideouts.

One elderly mute villager from Marei-wa was tortured and shot in the leg by the troops when he was unable to answer their questions. He does not dare return to his village.

Myanmar Army troops are continuing to patrol around the original villages of the refugees, making them afraid to return.

The refugees first fled to the villages of Laitlang and Zochawchhuak, close to the border, but later gathered at the larger village of Hmawngbuchuuak, where local communities were better able to support them.

Over 1,000 refugees who fled last November have returned to Myanmar, but few have gone back to their original villages, for fear of being arrested and tortured by the Myanmar Army. Most have gone to stay with relatives in Kyauktaw and Mrauk U in Rakhine State.

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