The second worst natural disaster in 15 years

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 13 Scenes

MoeMaKa, May 14 2023

The second worst natural disaster in 15 years

I have been keeping an eye on the latest situation regarding Cyclone Mocha that is posted on the walls of a social media platform, Facebook. My curiosity to know the latest situation of the storm posted by some acquaintances who live in Sittwe, and the situation in other parts of Rakhine State, such as Kyaukphyu, Thantwe, and Gwa, is happening all the time.

In the news of May 13, which ended today, most of the evacuation news of people living in Sittwe and other parts of northern Rakhine has been reported on social media and in news agencies. There are no clear figures on what percentage of the total population was able to move. In the areas where the Arakan Army (AA) has its armed forces, a recorded figure that they help is approximately 100,000. There have been some reports that the military council has provided assistance for the evacuation of people living in dangerous areas, but there is no information on how many people have been evacuated and to which places. In order to show that the military council was doing storm risk evacuation, the state chief minister and military regional commander visited some places in Sittwe and were photographed.

It can be said that the council is unable to provide clear and comprehensive information about the storm to the public before the storm hits and take preventive measures effectively. The people in the cities and rural areas of Rakhine State lack trust in the military council, and the military council itself is an armed force that has committed anti-public activities, genocide, human rights violations, mass killings, and burning down houses and villages in Rakhine State in the last 7-8 years. So, it is hard to believe that the armed forces, which are not on good terms with the people of Rakhine State, will help and rescue them.

In some international armed conflicts, there have been instances where the armed forces, the rebels and the government forces, have worked together to help and rescue during and after a natural disaster, and the armed conflict has been resolved. The closest event in terms of region and time is the armed conflict in Aceh, Indonesia, which was hit by the earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2004. The conflict between the Acehnese rebels and the Indonesian government’s armed forces has been resolved while they were working on relief issues after the natural disaster. It is an example of how natural disasters helped to solve political and military problems.

As for Myanmar, there is very little chance of a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict due to a natural disaster like the one in Aceh, Indonesia. The area where Cyclone Mocha will hit the hardest is the area where armed conflict between the AA and the military took place in 2018, 2019, and 2022. This is the region where armed conflict, the military council’s 4-cut blockade, and the arrests, beatings, and killing of suspects have occurred. At present, it is a period of verbal cease-fire.

If Cyclone Mocha makes landfall, the second region after Rakhine State to be affected by the storm will be Chin State and northern Magway. Chin State is a region where the military council has committed burning houses and killings due to intersections on the military council’s convoys on their way. The northern part of Magway is also an area where the military council troops and the local defense forces are fighting fiercely.

After Rakhine State, no one can predict how the relief efforts will be carried out in these areas, which will be affected by the inland storm.

Compared to the time of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, access to communication technologies and platforms is advantageous, and the situation of being able to reach and share information anywhere is clearly better than during Nargis. However, it is sad to hear about the situation in which armed groups that are politically opposed are unable to cooperate during and after a natural disaster.