Min Tun | DMG
18 January 2021, Sittwe

The Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA) will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the deployment of troops in Arakan State, and the Tatmadaw will take responsibility for clearing landmines, said Col. Min Than, Arakan State minister for Security and Border Affairs.

“Once the agreement is signed, the Tatmadaw will be able to clear its landmines at any time, but it will be difficult to clear mines planted by other groups in the jungle,” he told the Arakan State legislature on January 15.

“Part of the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement] is a plan to deploy troops only after the Tatmadaw and AA troops withdraw from each other. If an agreement is reached, the military will definitely plant mines under the military territorial registration system. If landmines are planted to protect camp security, there are registration systems. We can recover landmines at any time. Some of the landmines planted by the other group in the jungle are difficult to clear,” the minister said.

Despite a tense military situation between the Tatmadaw and the AA in Arakan State, the guns of conflict have fallen silent for more than two months, since the 2020 election on November 8.

U Oo Than Naing, an Arakan State MP for Rathedaung Township, submitted a motion to the state legislature on January 12 urging the local government to provide more effective assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing war from various townships in Arakan State so that they can return to their communities in safety and security.

The motion was seconded by six Arakan State lawmakers, and was approved by the Arakan State legislature as there were no objections.

MP U Oo Than Naing said that special attention needed to be paid to clearing landmines so that IDPs fleeing the fighting in Arakan State could return to their homes and live in safety.

“The war-torn areas are at high risk of landmines, and many townships in Arakan State are now plagued by landmines. IDPs will be able to return home only if their villages are cleared by experts and concerned officials,” said U Kyaw Lwin, an Arakan State MP for Kyaukphyu Township.

Forty-one people were killed and 77 were injured in encounters with landmines and other explosive remnants of war left in relation to clashes in the state, according to Arakan State legislators.

“It is known that some villages have had dead bodies buried inside their houses during the fighting, so these should be cleared of landmines. Only by clearing landmines and dead bodies can IDPs return to their villages safely,” said U Tun Aung Thein, an Arakan State lawmaker for Buthidaung Township.

With the Tatmadaw and the AA observing an unofficial ceasefire since the November election, more than 80,000 IDPs have returned to their homes, but over 180,000 IDPs still remain in camps, according to lawmakers.

The MPs have pointed out that the relevant government agencies need to make arrangements for the remaining IDPs so that they can be ready to cultivate their home turf during the coming rainy season.

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