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Two-month travel ban extended in western Myanmar

The area’s lockdown is causing problems for people’s health and livelihood, locals said.

Myanmar’s regime extended a travel ban in a conflict-ridden coastal area, locals told Radio Free Asia on Thursday.

The ban prevents Rakhine state residents from traveling by water, fishing, and gathering on the township’s shores until Apr. 19.

Kyaukpyu township, where the ban was originally established on Dec. 19, has been a source of conflict between the ethnic Arakan Army and junta forces.

The Arakan Army launched attacks on Kyaukpyu’s junta naval base on Jan. 8 and 21, leading locals to suggest China should discuss its many upcoming development projects in the area with the ethnic armed group to ensure their continued protection.

Kyaukpyu’s coast is the site of a Chinese-funded special economic zone, as well as upcoming ports and railroads stalled in December due to fighting. Residents have voiced concerns that Chinese development projects fail to provide local jobs and that they will impact the region’s vital fishing industry. 

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A fisherman in Kyaukpyu city on June 4, 2019. (RFA)

An official from a social assistance group in Kyaukpyu township said the travel ban was announced in a letter on Monday.

“Motor boats and rowing boats are not allowed to navigate along the river and it is forbidden to have alcohol or to fight along the shore,” he said, declining to be named for fear of reprisals. “Traveling in the villages and towns has been banned in the past. Everyone gets in trouble.”

The junta’s order also stated that if locals choose to violate this order, action will be taken according to existing laws.

The ban applies to the township’s capital of Kyaukpyu city, six surrounding village tracts and eight neighborhoods. It also prevents locals from gathering or fishing on the Ohn Chaung stream, Than Zit River, and nearby beaches, according to the statement.

The restrictions were implemented after the Arakan Army broke a year-long ceasefire by attacking junta camps in Kyaukpyu township, Rakhine state on Nov. 13, 2023, residents said.

A Kyaukpyu resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons told RFA that the travel ban has caused residents many problems affecting their health and quality of life. 

“Locals are facing difficulties in getting food, and commodity prices have become expensive. Sick people in rural areas suffer because of the delay in getting medical treatment,” he explained.

RFA called Rakhine state’s junta spokesperson for comment on the extension, but he did not respond to inquiries. Villagers can only receive permission to travel after submitting an application five days in advance, residents in Kyaukpyu’s surrounding areas said.

Within Kyaukpyu township, the junta prohibits the shipment and delivery of most types of medicine, food, electrical equipment, and hygiene products, including women’s sanitary pads.

On Monday, 60 passengers flying from Yangon were arrested after landing in Kyaukpyu’s airport. Pregnant women, children and elderly people have since been released, though the location of others remains unknown. 

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.

This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Burmese.

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