After Tatmadaw officials made personal assurances guaranteeing their safety, Buddhist Rakhine villagers have begun to return to Buthidaung township.
Over 600 people had fled to Zay Di Pyin Village and Khwa Sone Village after an increase in violence in the area. Eight Buddhist Mro villagers were found dead earlier this month.
On August 7, Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw, chief of the Bureau of Special Operations from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, flew to Zay Di Pyin Village to try to persuade the Rakhine residents to return.
“He told them to go home since security forces have been assigned [to their areas]. The villagers told him that they will go back home if the Tatmadaw sends its troops. Since the Tatmadaw is sending troops, they agreed to return,” said U Maung Aye Tin, Zay Di Pyin Village Administrator.
A total of 203 people from 72 households went back on August 7. The remaining 419 people from 62 households returned the following day.
Security forces have been deployed in northern Rakhine State and the area has been on lockdown since a Rohingya insurgent group launched a deadly attack on border guard posts killing nine officers last October. According to UN estimates, the ensuing counter-insurgency campaign led to the displacement of at least 92,000 Muslim Rohingya villagers, including around 75,000 who fled across the border to Bangladesh, bringing with them allegations of arson, murder and sexualized violence committed by the security forces.
The government has claimed that the Rohingya insurgent group is continuing to operate training camps in the Mayu Mountain range, and has pinned a series of murders on the militants, who call themselves the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. An unverified Twitter account self-described as representing ARSA, has denied that the group ever targets civilians.