On Saturday, May 9, the Myanmar military announced a unilateral nationwide ceasefire from Sunday, May 10, until Monday, August 31, amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The ceasefire will not include parts of northern Rakhine and Paletwa township in Chin state, where there are clashes between government forces and the Arakan Army. The military has called on all ethnic armed groups to abide existing laws and to keep all transportation routes open.
Earlier on Tuesday, May 5, the Arakan Army and two allied rebel groups, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, declared an extension of their unilateral ceasefire with the government until the end of May due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The groups had previously declared a unilateral ceasefire through April to allow the government to focus efforts on fighting COVID-19, however significant violations of the ceasefire continued through April with dozens killed and thousands displaced in Rakhine, Chin, and Shan states. The original unilateral ceasefire came amid a call by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for all armed groups worldwide to pause hostilities and allow for states to turn their attention towards combatting COVID-19.
Violence resumed in early December 2018 between Rakhine separatists and the military. The Arakan Army seeks greater autonomy for Buddhists in Rakhine state. According to the Myanmar office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 7500 displaced people are scattered across 29 sites in Rakhine due to the violence and 730,000 people in neighboring Bangladesh.
Individuals in Myanmar, and particularly in Rakhine, Chin, and Shan states, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, remain vigilant for militant and criminal activity, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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