Unidentified attackers armed with guns and machetes assaulted several villagers in northern Arakan State’s Maungdaw Township on Sunday, killing one man and seriously injuring three others, according to reports from local villagers.
The villagers, who declined to be named out of fear for their safety, said a group of men entered the Arakanese village of Yaung Bwe, located some 15 km north of Maungdaw Township, at 1 am Sunday.
They reportedly approached the home of village leader Ba Tin and attacked him with a machete as he opened the door. When other villagers came to his aid they were also assaulted.
“They [the attackers] were disguised as local authorities, called out the name of U Ba Tin, the village head, saying that they need to check for census [identification] and when he opened the door, U Ba Tin was chopped,” said a villager, who spoke to The Irrawaddy by phone.
“When other men in the house were called for help, they were shot and injured,” he said, adding that surviving victims had provided the account of the gruesome events.
“Maung Aye, a 54-year-old trader from Sittwe, was heavily injured due to the stabbing and shooting. He died on the way to Maungdaw Hospital,” said the villager.
Ba Tin was reportedly receiving intensive care for head wounds at Sittwe Hospital, in Arakan State’s capital. The other two injured men, who were shot in the legs, were undergoing treatment at Maungdaw hospital.
Villagers alleged that the attackers disguised themselves by wearing uniforms of Burma’s Border Security Force units called Nasaka, who are stationed along the western border with Bangladesh.
Yaung Bwe village is located close to the Border Security Force region 5. An officer at the region 5 office alleged the attackers were coming from Bangladesh and had snuck across the border at night.
“Those attackers are believed to be from the [Rohingya] refugee camps in Bangladesh. They came and attacked at night and escaped immediately,” said the officer, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
He said night time robberies by disguised men had occurred in the area before, although it was the first time that villagers had been killed in an attack.
Maungdaw Township and other parts of northern Arakan State were the scene of violence last year between Arakanese Buddhist communities and Muslim villagers. The latter group calls themselves Rohingya, but they are not recognized by Burma’s government as an ethnic minority. Locally they are referred to as ‘Bengalis.’
During waves of inter-communal violence last year scores of villagers were killed and some 110,000 people fled. Most of the displaced are Rohingya, who are now living in dire conditions in camps across the state.
On the other side of the border in Bangladesh, there are also camps where large numbers of Rohingya have been living for many years, without being recognized by the Bangladeshi government.
Incidents such as night time attacks in villages add to the volatile situation in northern Arakan State. In early November, three engineers belonging to the Burmese armed forces went missing in the area. They are believed to have been abducted by unidentified groups.
At the time, they were constructing a fence along Burma’s 170-km long border with Bangladesh.
The Border Security Force officer said the unstable security situation in the area needed to be put under control. “The government should pay attention to the border security as a series of incidents happened in the border area, such as that soldiers were kidnapped, the truck was set ablaze and now the village administrator is attacked,” he said.