September 21 2022, Sittwe
September 21 is recognised annually as International Day of Peace, also known as World Peace Day. But in Myanmar, instability and a stark lack of peace prevails in the aftermath of the February 2021 military coup. Renewed hostilities in recent weeks between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) have prompted many locals to flee for their lives in Arakan State.
On the occasion of International Day of Peace, residents, activists and displaced people in Arakan State shared their difficulties and hopes for peace with DMG.
Daw Nyo Aye || Chairwoman || Rakhine Women’s Network
I hope people can live a peaceful life in which they do not need to worry about food and shelter. However, I am well aware of the reality. I’ve heard displacement camps are facing serious food shortages. As the government has imposed a travel ban on all local and international nongovernmental organisations, I want to tell the government that it will only starve the people and will not help it win the fighting. I want to urge the government not to cause greater suffering for people.
On this International Day of Peace, we, the residents of volatile Arakan State, feel particularly disconsolate. Peace is critically important for women. Whenever there are conflicts, it is women and children who bear the brunt. This has left emotional scars on women. Yesterday, a heavily pregnant woman died on the bank of the Kaladan River after she was shocked by the sounds of artillery fired by the Myanmar military. We are aggrieved. So, stakeholders should also learn to listen to the voices of women.
If they have a genuine desire for peace, they should work through negotiations. The current government maintains a tough stance, and it appears that it has no desire for peace.
Ko Ann Thar Gyi || Social Activist
The civil war has been going on in Myanmar for more than 70 years. It is twice my age. As a person who has been suffering from the civil war, I urge all the stakeholders to engage in peace talks and political dialogue. It is not a good idea to militarily weaken one side in order to gain advantage in talks. I only want to see all the leaders engage in political dialogue, without their bodies being harmed in the fighting. I hope there will be peace talks that can end the civil war for the sake of younger generations in the country.
On this International Day of Peace, I wish that all the wars around the world, including in Arakan State, come to an end as early as possible. It has been many years that we have demanded peace. Previously, some said they took up arms for peace, and some said arms must be laid down for peace. We want to have a meaningful peace, in which we no longer need to worry about war even with the presence of armed groups.
U Kyaw Win || IDP || Taungmin Kalar displacement camp
People are not aware of the International Day of Peace on September 21 due to ongoing fighting in Arakan State. The International Day of Peace is not celebrated due to the armed conflict. People suffer from the armed conflict and I would like to urge both sides to negotiate until the two sides find a solution and cease the fighting.
Some IDPs are being forced to return home by the township administrators. We will face many difficulties if we return home for the time being. The main thing I want to say is that if there is peace, the people’s livelihoods and social welfare will be comfortable. Arakanese people want peace.
Saw Mra Yarzar Linn || Vice Chairwoman || Arakan Liberation Party
On the International Day of Peace, which falls today, I thought about comparing the situation of my country with the situation of other countries. Myanmar was plunged into crisis after the 2020 general election when the military seized power, and the country is in a state of turmoil and people suffer various hardships. In addition, fighting resumed in Arakan State. I am deeply saddened, not only for Arakan State, but also for the entire people of Myanmar.
The armed conflict in Myanmar needs to be stopped. If the fighting has ended, the discussion will move to the negotiating table. If it is not like this, the fighting will continue everywhere as it is now, and we will have no reason to come to the peace table as expected.
People who are always moving toward peace, their goal is to solve the political conflicts in Myanmar without bloodshed, and he or she is a person who has worked hard. At the end of all battles, there is always dialogue. That’s why I want to urge the entire public who are now unhappy and the individuals involved in the struggle to consult and find a solution to the issues of this country peacefully.
Daw Aye Khaing || IDP || Taungmin Kalar displacement camp
I am not in a position to stop the fighting. But I would like to ask the armed groups to take the plight of people into consideration. Commodity prices are skyrocketing and job opportunities are scarce. The displaced people are unable to return home due to ongoing fighting. I would like to urge the military not to prohibit the relief organisations from visiting displacement camps in Arakan State. We have been expecting to return home for four years. We dare not return home due to the risks of landmines and transportation barriers.
We feel secure at the displacement camp. We are pushed to return home by the township administrator. I think all displaced people want to return home. The IDPs take refuge at displacement camps because they feel insecure in their villages.
On behalf of women and children, I would like to say that aid doesn’t reach IDPs. IDPs are worried about their safety and livelihoods due to rising commodity prices and job scarcity in Arakan State, but they want peace. I pray that not only Arakan State, but the entire country of Myanmar will be at peace as soon as possible.