Junta blockades roads and waterways in Arakan State amid renewed hostilities
The military government blocked off the Yangon-Sittwe and Angumaw-Maungdaw roads in Rathedaung Township on Monday morning as the fighting began, according to locals and truck drivers.
13 Nov 2023
13 November 2023, Sittwe
Myanmar’s military regime on Monday closed security checkpoints and blockaded roads and waterways across Arakan State as clashes between the junta and the Arakan Army (AA) resumed in Rathedaung and Minbya townships, bringing vehicle and boat traffic to a standstill at several locations.
The military government blocked off the Yangon-Sittwe and Angumaw-Maungdaw roads in Rathedaung Township on Monday morning as the fighting began, according to locals and truck drivers. The junta has reportedly barred locals and travellers from passing through the Tat Htein and Kyauktan security checkpoints in Sittwe, as well as at all checkpoints along the Yangon-Sittwe road, a major thoroughfare for both people and goods.
“More than 100 vehicles have been trapped at the Tat Htein security checkpoint in Sittwe and no vehicle is allowed to pass through the checkpoint. The military has reportedly closed the Kyauktan security checkpoint,” a man who was stranded at the Tat Htein security checkpoint told DMG.
About 40 cargo trucks from Yangon heading to Arakan State were trapped at the Ann and Kazukaing checkpoints, said drivers.
“Vehicles are trapped where they are. I am trapped in Kazukaing. Vehicles are also trapped at other checkpoints. We are not allowed to travel because of the fighting,” said a Yangon-Sittwe cargo bus driver.
The regime has also prevented vehicles from entering or leaving Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U and Minbya towns, leaving thousands of passengers stranded along the Yangon-Sittwe road.
“One of our buses is trapped in Ann,” said a manager of the Yoma Mandalar Express Bus Line. “And one that left for Sittwe this morning is trapped at the Kyauktaw checkpoint. Many cargo trucks heading to Sittwe are also trapped at other checkpoints.”
The regime has also ordered local ferry boat lines to suspend operations. A Shwe Pyin Tan express boat line manager said the boat line had to cancel operations on its Sittwe-Pauktaw-Minbya, Sittwe-Mrauk-U, Sittwe-Rathedaung-Buthidaung-Maungdaw routes and other routes to southern Arakan State as of Monday morning.
“They [junta officials] phoned this morning and told us not to operate. So, we have to cancel our operations. We have informed consignors to come and take back their goods,” said the manager.
Ferry boats operating from Pauktaw to Sittwe were forced to turn back, according to helmsmen.
The sudden and widespread closure of major overland and water transit routes has left local residents concerned about potential price hikes, resulting in panic buying of rice, cooking oil, other basic foodstuffs, consumer goods and medicines in the Arakan State capital Sittwe.
“The Sittwe central market is packed with people buying food,” said Sittwe resident Daw Cho Cho. “The prices have not yet changed. I went there to buy rice, but there were long queues, and I could not buy it.”
Clashes between the Myanmar military and AA resumed in Arakan State on November 13 as the Arakanese ethnic armed group attacked multiple junta positions, bringing an end to the two sides’ ceasefire as fighting continues to escalate elsewhere in Myanmar.
The hostilities in Rathedaung and Minbya townships were predicted by many amid speculation that a “western front” to the anti-junta armed resistance movement might open in Arakan State after the Three Brotherhood Alliance, of which the AA is a member, launched an offensive late last month with the aim of toppling Myanmar’s military regime.
The end of the military-AA ceasefire — reached on humanitarian grounds in late November 2022 — appeared likely to have significant negative impacts on lives and livelihoods in Arakan State.
“The military council is showing that if there is fighting in Arakan State, they will close the roads and cause harm to the people,” said a local man in Ann Township.