Journalists who travelled to Maungtaw on 6 September spoke with Muslim residents who described the events of 25 August, when the most recent terrorist attacks occurred, and life in Rakhine since then.Villagers from conflict areas are currently being housed in several shelters throughout Maungtaw.Reporters also met with Colonel Phone Tint, Rakhine State Minister for Security and Border Affairs, who said that they were able to calm the situation in two days after the attacks on 25 August. He said that leaders of Islamic villages who guaranteed they had no affiliation with terrorists peacefully let the security troops perform inspections of their commities.Rakhine and Hindu ethnics who are taking refuge from ARSA extremist terrorists’ attacks were placed in eight temporary shelters throughout Maungtaw. U Ye Htut, Maungtaw District Commissioner, told members of the media that temporary shelters will be set up for Islamic villagers who can guarantee they are in no way connected to the terrorists.Currently the Islamic villages of Shwe Zar, Maung Ni and Myomaka Nyindan wards have been left untouched by ARSA terrorists. Members of the media met with some Muslim villagers to ask for their perspective on the current situation.
U Maw Ni Ahmed, 54, Officer in-charge of Kappakaung Village, Shwezar village-tractQ: Was your village included in any terrorist attacks?A: No, nothing of the sort happened here in 2012 or 2016 either. However, a month before these recent attacks, some terrorist members came into our village and killed four villagers because they said we collaborated with the government.Q: What is the situation in the village like after the attacks on 25 August? A: We heard a lot of gunshots around 2 am on the first day of the attacks. Then we heard terrorists had attacked the police outposts, but our village is still devoid of conflict. We can’t travel to Maungtaw yet but I heard we might soon be able to. I was born here in Shwezar and it has about 15,000 people in it.Q: We heard there was a fire here on 5 September. How did it happen?A: The fire was in Gonenyar village and it burned 38 houses. It was rumoured that terrorists lived there. That village is a bit far from our village. There are twelve villages in Shwezar village-tract. There is one village of Rakhine ethnics, one village of Hindu people and ten villages of Islamic villagers. Nine of the villages have made an agreement with the region’s authorities, but Gonenyar village is not included. We told them to contact us if there is no terrorism.Q: What kinds of agreements were made with the authorities?A: Our village leaders have guaranteed the authorities that there are no terrorists in our village. We have taken measures to prevent any sort of problems from arising. We contacted the authorities on 27 August and the border security forces in the area have given us protection. This is the agreement we have made for the villagers to live in peace. There are 16 mosques in the village, and we are allowed to use them, plus we also have a market.
U Rawshi Ahmed, 59, from Gonenar VillageQ: What is the village’s current situation?A: It’s peaceful, although we heard there was some commotion in Gonenyar and a fire broke out there. Gonnenyar is part of Shwezar, but we don’t know who started the fire.Q: Is there any uneasiness living in this village?A: We don’t leave our houses after 6 pm, and the village leaders tell us there is nothing to worry about. They told us to stay in our homes and I stay with my 12 family members.Q: Are there any villagers who have fled this village?A: There’s none in our part of the village, but some villagers from the other villages have fled. Some fled because they were scared, but I don’t know why the rest fled. Perhaps there are people in those villages who want to start terrorism, but there are none of those in our village.Q: Were there any attempts by terrorists to recruit people here?A: There have been no incidents like that in our village yet. There have been no incidences of terrorism and we don’t have people from other villages coming here.Q: How long have you lived in this village?A: My family has been living here since my parent’s time. I was born here and now I’m 59 years old. There are about 15,000 people in Shwezar village-tract. Some people are farmers, some are traders, some are merchants and there are many others. The attacks happened far from where we live. I think stability will return to the region if we can freely come and go and do business. We used to live together with Rakhine and Hindu villagers. U Taw Rud, 59, Kanyintan ward, Maungtaw MyomaQ: When and why was Kanyintan market closed?A: On the day when the event of the terrorist attack took place, the market was closed. Just about one week after the attack, the market was temporarily opened. Just a little bit. When groceries ran short, it was closed. Outside the market as well, there were sales and purchases, as seen by now. Q: Let me know about the event as far as you know.A: As it took place at night, we did not know exactly where it happened. To put it simply, we never expected such an event would happen. And, we did not know as to how it started. On our site, there were not any arson crimes, but in Kanyintan Myoma ward, behind the District Office. We heard these extremist terrorists committed arson crimes to destroy the place. On our part, nothing happened. Formerly there were some 15,000 populace in the village, but now there would be over 10,000 left, in estimation. Some fled to Bangladesh, with some to nearby villages, for fear of danger and worries. Q: Why are they worried? A: Security forces are launching area clearance operations against terrorism. They would be worried whether they would become victims in the operations or they would be arrested. Those who had not been involved in it as well were worried. In my opinion, I assume that we from here need not be worried for that, as we were not involved with it. But people are greatly worried for hearing that there will be more battles here. Q: Have markets in Maungtaw been officially permitted to be reopened? A: I heard so. According to my friend, several shops nearby the tower clock at the junction of the town entrance gate reopened yesterday. He is running a pharmacy, opening for two hours as it was less crowded. People seem not to go outside out of fear. I overheard villagers whisper to each other not to go outside. Q: What else do you want to say about terrorist attacks?A: Concerning this, we felt sorrowful. Rights cannot be achieved through terrorism. It will be the best way to peacefully solve. But I think that they had launched terrorist attacks at the thought that it would probably bring about the result. They would have claimed that they did it for the sake of their rights. For doing so, opportunity will be far away from them. There will be not one iota of good results. If and when some problems occur, people will be greatly harmed. Why did they do so? One side makes terrorist attacks and the other side will surely launch clearance operations. Then, people will be in trouble.
By Tin Maung Lwin & Min Htet AungBy Tin Maung Lwin & Min Htet Aung