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Myanmar junta orders evacuations around state capital

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s junta has ordered thousands of people living outside a state capital threatened by ethnic rebels to leave their homes and head into the city, residents said yesterday.

Sittwe city is one of the few holdouts for junta troops in western Rakhine state, where the military has lost swathes of territory to the Arakan Army (AA) in recent weeks.

The AA, which says it is fighting for autonomy for the state’s ethnic Rakhine population, has vowed to capture Sittwe.

Residents of 15 villages around Sittwe were given five days to leave their homes and move to the state capital, a resident of one of the villages told AFP.

“The army threatened to shoot and kill if they found someone after the deadline” which expires today, she said, requesting anonymity due to fear of arrest.

A resident of Sittwe put the number of villages ordered to evacuate at around 10, saying that residents had been told “to move out for security reasons” by today.

The villages were home to around 3,500 people, the Sittwe resident said, requesting anonymity.

They added the military had not arranged for temporary shelters in Sittwe.

“People have to move to their relatives’ homes from other villages,” they said.

Local media also reported the order to evacuate villages in the area.

AFP was unable to reach a junta spokesman for comment.

In November, the AA launched a wave of attacks on the military across Rakhine, shattering a ceasefire that had largely held since the military’s 2021 coup.

It has since seized territory along the border with India and Bangladesh, piling further pressure on the junta as it battles opponents elsewhere across the Southeast Asian country.

It has also held the town of Pauktaw, around 25 kilometres from Sittwe, since January.

File photo of Myanmar junta soldiers patrolling a street in Yangon. PHOTO: AFP