The Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) informally agreed to a temporary humanitarian ceasefire starting November 26.
The ceasefire was intended to help people suffering food shortages because of the blockade of land and water routes, and to help farmers unable to harvest rice because of light and heavy weapons fire [from the regime forces].
Although people in war-affected areas in Arakan State had hoped that both water and land routes would reopen after the ceasefire, land routes remained closed despite the reopening of some waterways, locals said.
The military council reopened the Maungdaw-Angumaw Road on November 28, but it was closed again, a driver who travels the road told Development Media Group (DMG).
“Maungdaw-Angumaw Road is still closed. The gates are also still closed. Kha Yay Pyan and Tha Yay Kone villages can’t even get here because the gates are closed. Passenger buses from Maungdaw even announced on their social media pages that the road would reopen on November 30. But the buses didn’t run. Later, they announced that the buses wouldn’t run because the schedule didn’t match the motorized barge.
In addition, the regime reopened the Yaychanpyin-Angumaw waterway for two days starting November 28, but the type of goods transported through the road was restricted. Currently, the water channel is closed again, a barge operator plying the route told DMG.
“On November 28 and 29, both passenger boats and speedboats were allowed to operate, but on November 30, they were not. I don’t know why. Passengers’ NRCs were also checked on those two days. Cement and fuels weren’t allowed to be transported. The route is closed to this day. But boats coming from Rathedaung and Buthidaung are allowed to pass it. They just don’t allow traffic from Maungdaw,” he said.
Similarly, the regime had closed the Sittwe-Ponnagyun-Rathedaung road since June 16. The road was reopened to some vehicles on November 28 but later closed again, a driver from Rathedaung told DMG.
“On November 28, three or four vehicles were allowed to pass after inspection. But the road was closed again. I thought they would reopen the road after letting some vehicles pass, but they didn’t. Since then, the road hasn’t been reopened yet,” he said.
He also added that the six-month closure of the Sittwe-Ponnagyuan-Rathedaung road has resulted in some bus drivers becoming unemployed and seeking work abroad.
“All the drivers have faced hardship due to the road closure. Some of them have stopped driving and gone abroad. There are many people in this area who earn their living from passenger transport. Because of the long road closure, they had to find other work,’ he said.
The military council keeps the Sittwe-Ponnagyun highway closed until today. Although the military guard gate has been reopened, the Kyauktan gate and other gates for the Ponnagyun road section are still closed, a passenger bus driver plying the route told DMG.
“The military guard gate is open. But the Kyauktan gate hasn’t been reopened yet. So the vehicles can’t pass through yet. The road to Ponnagyun hasn’t been reopened yet,’ he said.
Roads closed by the military council include the Sittwe-Ponnagyun highway, Minbya-Myebon road, Sittwe-Ponnagyun-Rathedaung road and Maungdaw-Agumaw road.
Although the Shwe Pyi Tan express boate already operates on the Sittwe-Pauktaw and Sittwe-Rathedaung-Myebon routes, it is still not allowed to pass through the Sittwe-Mrauk-U waterway, according to a Shwe Pyi Tan official.
“Only Shwe Pyi Tan is allowed to operate at the moment. None of the locals dare to go out. Because we are not sure if the boats will be fired at despite the ceasefire. We don’t dare because the junta soldiers are both under and on Kyat Sin Bridge,” said a resident of Hpa Laung Pyin village in Minbya Township.
A Minbya resident told DMG that both land and water routes between Minbya and Myebon remain closed.
Calls to U Hla Thein, spokesperson for the Arakan State Military Council, regarding the reopening of the routes went unanswered.
The prolonged closure of transportation routes in Arakan State has affected the lives of people in the state, including the economy and health care.
Sent by Aung Htein (DMG).