Armed hostilities between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA) have been ongoing since December 2018. As a consequence, the number of IDPs in Arakan State has surpassed 200,000, with many of them taking shelter at relief camps across the state. Hundreds more civilians have been killed or injured.
Against the backdrop of this conflict, Myanmar’s November 8 general election draws nearer. Observers note that in many ways, the situation in Arakan State has deteriorated since the current government took power in 2016, a notable critique given that the administration of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pledged from the outset to prioritise peacebuilding.
With thousands more displaced in just the past few weeks, DMG reporter Min Tun interviewed IDPs in three Arakan State townships to find out what kind of government they want to see emerge from the 2020 election.
Daw Ma Hsan Yee, IDP from Yaymyet village in Rathedaung Township
I want a government that will do the best for the people. I want a government that will make peace. I don’t want to run like this. I want to live in peace in my place, no matter how poor I am at my house. Our life is meaningless because we have left our homes.
Ma Win Win Shwe, IDP from Namatar village in Paletwa Township
I want a new government capable of bestowing goodwill and loving-kindness on its people. I don’t want a government that oppresses the people. I don’t want a government that bombs the people. I want to be able to work peacefully in my native village. I want to live in my native area in a peaceful manner, no matter what.
U Thein Soe Aung, IDP from Shwepyithar village in Kyauktaw Township
I want a new government that will help all IDPs to return to their native villages without difficulty. I pray that a new government will be able to end the fighting and make it easier for the internally displaced people to live and work in their own areas. We want a new government that does not discriminate between black and white for the benefit of the people.
U Maung Kaw Zan, IDP from Yaymyet village in Rathedaung Township
Personally, I want our own government formed with our own people. We will not face many difficulties if we have our own government. This [conflict] is because we are ruled by others, not by our own people. I had to run three times in one day. Imagine what it must have been like for a grandfather in his 60s! Being an IDP, I have many difficulties.
Many local people feel that they are being persecuted because of their racial differences. I prefer if the local government consists of our own people. In the past, voting for Arakanese candidates was empty. I like it more when my own Arakan government comes to rule. I do not want to be the one who has to face such challenges. I want to live and work in my own village in a peaceful manner.
We had to abandon all our belongings such as farmlands, cattle and rice. It is so sad to talk about such difficulties. We lost everything. We will be able to live peacefully if the next government can handle this issue. If we have to run like this without being able to work, it does not matter if we live in a country.
Daw Moe Moe Yee, IDP from Shwepyitha village in Kyauktaw Township
I want to bring peace to my country because I can no longer return to my hometown. Only then can we make a living for survival. I want a government that will make peace. In this current situation, it is not possible.