20 Villages Abandoned as Rakhine Rebels Attack Myanmar Army Outpost

By Min Aung Khine 13 March 2020

Sittwe, Rakhine State — The monthlong fighting between Myanmar’s military and Arakan Army (AA) to the east of the Kaladan River on the border of Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw and Chin State’s Paletwa has forced nearly 20 villages to be abandoned.

“Our village was reduced to ashes. All the houses were burned down days ago and artillery shells landed on the village monastery yesterday,” the village administrator of Mont Than Pyin, U Kyaw Sein, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

“Everyone living along the Kaladan River has fled to either Paletwa or Kyauktaw. The fighting is still fierce. We no longer have homes to return to and have even lost the monastery,” he added.

Seven villages along the east bank of the Kaladan and 11 on the west bank have been abandoned.

Fighting has been taking place since Feb. 6 around Myanmar’s military Meewa hilltop outpost in Paletwa Township. The AA has been trying to take control of the outpost, according to Myanmar’s military.

Artillery shells have landed in Mont Than Pyin, Pyaing Tine and Kyaw Shi Pyin villages, killing and wounding several villagers, according to residents.

Mont Than Pyin was hit hardest with all 66 houses in the village flattened by shelling, which also killed cattle.

“Many people have fled to urban areas. Residents in the town cannot stand the sounds of shelling,” Rakhine State Kyauktaw lawmaker U Maung Maung told The Irrawaddy.

Myanmar’s military attacked with two jet fighters near Tin Ma village to the east of the Kaladan on Thursday, said a Buddhist monk from the village.

“There is fighting almost every day near our village. Today [Myanmar’s military] bombed with two jet fighters. And military troops stationed on top of a hill outside the village also carried out shelling. As I could no longer bear the sounds of heavy gunfire, I closed the monastery and left,” the monk told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

Both the Myanmar military and the AA confirmed fierce clashes between the AA fighters and the Light Infantry Battalion 7 based in Phayagyi, Bago Region, which came to reinforce the Meewa outpost on Tuesday.

The AA claimed that it detained 20 soldiers, including a battalion commander, in the fighting. Myanmar’s military spokesman Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy that they lost contact with the troops when they were attacked by the AA to the southwest of the Meewa outpost on Tuesday morning.

“What we can say is there are military personnel who have gone missing and who we have lost contact with. We are trying to restore contact with them. We’re told all the villagers have fled and AA fighters are occupying those villages. Our troops are taking security measures in the surrounding areas,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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