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Myanmar junta blocks Rakhines from leaving Yangon

Navy arrests 80 Rohingyas

Published : 21 Mar 2024 10:26 PM | Updated : 21 Mar 2024 10:26 PM

Myanmar’s military regime has barred Rakhine people from leaving Yangon amid escalating fighting as the Arakan Army (AA) advances towards the state capital in Rakhine State.

The junta on Monday instructed Yangon express bus operators not to sell tickets to anyone holding citizenship identification cards indicating they reside in Rakhine State.

The instruction threatened harsh penalties against bus operators who sell tickets to Rakhine residents.

The manager of a Yangon-based tour company confirmed the travel ban on citizens from Rakhine.

“The notice says we are not allowed to sell bus tickets to residents holding Rakhine State ID. It didn’t explain why. So, we can’t sell tickets to them. We will be punished if we do so,” she said.

Residents of other states also face restrictions on traveling out of Yangon. Bus operators are not allowed to sell tickets unless the buyer produces their citizenship ID, a travel-permission letter from authorities, or a letter from their employer outside Yangon, she added.

“They must bring their original citizenship IDs to buy tickets. They must also bring letters from their ward administrator and police station.” a bus ticket agent confirmed.

Many believe the restrictions have been imposed to prevent youngsters from evading conscription.

Enforced by the regime last month, the national conscription law allows the military to summon men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve for at least two years. The age limit for professionals such as doctors and engineers is extended to 45 for men and 35 for women.

“Yes, bus lines will not sell tickets for this,” confirmed a man brandishing his Rakhine State ID in Yangon.

“Maybe they fear punishment if junta troops spot us during checks along the road. How are we supposed to travel if a life-or-death situation comes up? This is the country we live in.”

A large number of Rakhine people are working in Yangon as job opportunities are scarce in the country’s second poorest state. Frontier reported in 2020 that 60,000 Rakhine migrants were working in the commercial capital. Many Rakhine people have also settled permanently in Yangon, though their citizenship IDs may still show them registered as Rakhine residents.

Shortly after imposing conscription, the regime also clamped down on air travelers returning to Rakhine, according to Rakhine-based media outlet Western News.

Some were detained for interrogation and several remain in custody, it reported.

Two days after the enforcement of conscription on Feb. 10, the regime imposed travel restrictions on air travelers flying from Rakhine to Yangon. Residents are only allowed to fly to Yangon for healthcare or education with permission from their district administrators.

Junta navy arrests 80 fleeing Rohingya off Myanmar coast

Meanwhile, RFA reports; Myanmar’s junta navy arrested around 80 Rohingya attempting to flee the country by boat, residents who witnessed the event told Radio Free Asia on Thursday. 

Officials arrested the group on Tuesday morning in Myanmar’s coastal Mon state. The boat was intercepted off the shores of Ye township’s Kaleguak Island in the Andaman Sea.

Mon state’s junta spokesperson Aung Myat Kyaw Sein told RFA that although Mon’s administration was made aware of the arrest, other details have yet to be confirmed.

“The estimated number is about 80, but we do not know the genders yet,” he said, adding that unspecified official processes still need to be carried out.

The arrested Rohingya will be treated well and officials will follow official procedures, he said. 

RFA was able to confirm the group traveled on a boat named Zwel Khit San, but could not identify where the group traveled from or where it intended to go.

Many Rohingya who had remained in Rakhine state after being targeted in a genocide by the Myanmar military in 2017 fled to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia following the country’s 2021 coup. In October and November 2023, junta troops arrested over 200 Rohingya escaping to nearby countries by boat, citing job scarcity, unemployment and increasing restrictions placed on the ethnic minority.

After junta troops announced the enactment of the People’s Military Service Law on Feb. 10, videos originating from Rakhine state’s west a month later showed Rohingya undergoing military training. Troops have also preyed on Rohingya in internally displaced people’s camps, offering them freedom of movement in exchange for bolstering the junta’s numbers. 

Mon state residents said that junta forces arrested 117 Rohingya on a rubber farm in Thanbyuzayat township’s War Kha Yu village in January, but the reason is still unknown. 

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported on Jan. 23 that during 2023, at least 569 Rohingya died and went missing after leaving Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh.