6 Myanmar Villagers, Including 3-Year-Old, Wounded in Rakhine

By Min Aung Khine 3 September 2019

SITTWE—Six villagers, including a little girl, were injured by artillery fire on Monday in the village of Thayet Ta Pin, in Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township.

Villagers say the shots came from the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw), though the Tatmadaw has denied responsibility, saying counterfire from the Arakan Army (AA) could just as well have caused the injuries.

The AA said they were not there.

Villagers told The Irrawaddy that, after an unidentified blast was heard near a passing Tatmadaw column Monday afternoon, soldiers began shooting at homes.

“Yesterday afternoon, after 1 p.m., we heard an explosion outside the village, when the soldiers were near our village, coming from Kyauktaw toward Maha Muni pagoda. I do not know how it happened,” Villager U Maung Win told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. “After the explosion, the soldiers who had arrived in the village shot into the houses.”

Villagers said those shots injured U Maung Than Mya, 53; U Maung San Thein, 41; Daw Ma Nyunt, 41; U Maung Than Wai, 32; Ko Maung Maung Soe, 16 and Ma Khine Thazin Nyein, 3.

Additionally, four female students of the nearby Maha Nwe Boarding School lost consciousness from fright when the explosion went off. They are now being treated at Kyauktaw Hospital.

Colonel Win Zaw Oo, spokesperson for the Tatmadaw’s Western Command, said his troops were returning AA fire.

“At around 2 p.m. yesterday [Monday], one column of us went toward Maha Muni pagoda to do our administrative tasks. When we were on the way, at the bridge near the entrance of Thayet Ta Pin village, two mines blasts occurred,” he told The Irrawaddy. “In the meantime, we were attacked with a 40mm [grenade] launcher, which is a small launcher, from the edge of the village, so our column fired back at the target that attacked us.”

“Both sides were shooting, and villagers might have been wounded, but I do not know details about how many villagers were wounded,” he said.

AA spokesperson U Khaing Thuka said his forces did not engage in any battles near Thayet Ta Pin village on Monday.

“The military’s claims are groundless accusations. Nobody would shoot from the village as they said. We would never do things that would harm our people. They did this with the intent to shoot and kill our people,” he said. “They have shot villagers like this before. We can see in their interviews that they will continue to shoot in the future.”

Villagers said that, as they fled from the shooting, Tatmadaw soldiers looted goods, money and jewelry from shops along the road.

“We heard gunshots and had no time to close our shops. We hid in nearby houses. Soldiers carrying arms arrived in front of our shop, and a solider went into the shop and took [things]. Then he asked other soldiers to come and take things,” Daw Ma Khin Than, a shop owner in Thayet Ta Pin village, told The Irrawaddy.

“They sat and drunk soft drinks. They took away four ticals of gold and 4 million kyats I kept at my shop. I saw soldiers taking it,” she said.

Colonel Win Zaw Oo denied the looting, accusing villagers of making it up in order to defame the military.

Villagers must cooperate with the military to avoid being harmed in clashes, and they need to inform the military if AA fighters come to their villagers, he said.

Ten shop owners—including grocers and mobile phone vendors whose goods they say were looted by the military—opened cases with the Kyauktaw Township police station Tuesday afternoon.

“The police asked us to write the complaints ourselves and leave them. We don’t know if they’ll accept our complaints or not. We wrote in our complaints that the soldiers took our phones and goods and we left these complaints at the police station,” Daw Ma Khin Than said.

The six villagers and four female students that were injured in the alleged military shooting are receiving medical treatment at Kyauktaw Township Hospital.

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