Army Officer, 2 Navy Personnel Killed in AA Rocket Attack in Rakhine

By Moe Myint 22 July 2019

YANGON—An army captain and two naval personnel based in southern Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu Township were killed when the Arakan Army (AA) launched rocket attacks on two naval vessels on a river in Myebon Township last Friday.

A staff member from Kyaukphyu General Hospital confirmed to The Irrawaddy on Monday that three bodies arrived for postmortems on Saturday. According to the staff member, the bodies were identified as those of an army captain from Kyaukphyu-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 543 and two personnel from Danyawaddy Naval Base, situated 4 kilometers east of downtown Kyaukphyu. Some Kyaukphyu locals said that the army officer was identified as Captain Soe Htet Aung.

The Arakan Army (AA) acknowledged firing rockets at two Myanmar Navy vessels in the Taung Sein River in Myebon Township on July 19. It said fighting between the Tatmadaw and AA guerrillas in the north of Rakhine and the Western Command-controlled territory in Ann region had intensified in recent days as the military had dispatched more troops to Ann from Kyaukphyu Township using naval vessels.

According to an AA battle update, the rocket attacks killed nearly 10 soldiers including a high-ranking officer from LIB No. 543, and injured as many as 20 troops. The Irrawaddy could not independently verify the AA’s casualty figures. A Myanmar military spokesman did not respond to The Irrawaddy’s phone calls seeking comment on Monday.

As the naval vessels were ambushed in an area of mangrove forest between Kyaukphyu and Myebon townships, the military sent in troop reinforcements to the nearest villages, Pauk Tu Taung and Yae Kaung Chein. In the monsoon season, private speedboats and government and military vessels mostly use inland waterways when traveling from Sittwe to Kyaukphyu or other inland destinations, rather than crossing the Bay of Bengal.

Ko Than, a resident of Tha Yet Taung village, which is close to Pauk Tu Taung village, said that nearly 500 villagers from Pauk Tu Taung and Set Khway village sought refuge at the monastery and relatives’ homes in his village on Monday after more than 200 soldiers took up positions on hilltops near Pauk Tu Taung. Another unit has also been based in Yae Kaung Chein, he said.

“Soldiers test-fired two artillery rounds in Pauk Tu Taung village on Sunday night. Villagers were scared by the loud explosions and fled to safer locations,” Ko Than said.

He said more than 1,000 people from Pauk Tu Taung were sheltering in Kan Htaung Gyi, which has been officially upgraded from a model village to sub-town status in Myebon Township. He explained that locals thought the police presence in the town made it safer than a village like Tha Yet Taung, as his village is half way to Kan Htaung Gyi town.

As of Monday afternoon, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief’s website made no mention of the Myebon attack, though it did carry announcements of separate attacks on naval vessels in northern Rakhine State’s strife-torn Rathedaung on Saturday.

The army said three naval vessels were attacked with 107-mm remote controlled rockets while they were anchored in the middle of the Mayu River in Rathedaung Township on Saturday. No major damage or casualties were reported.  The army said it had seized three inactive rockets near the riverbank that had been fired at navy vessels.

The AA has conducted three such rocket attacks. In June, it attacked a naval tugboat docked on the outskirts of the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe, killing two security personnel. And just last week, the AA again fired upon naval vessels in Rathedaung and Myebon townships.

So far, armed clashes between the AA and the Tatmadaw have displaced more than 50,000 people, mostly in the north of Rakhine State, as well as hundreds of villagers in neighboring Chin State’s Paletwa Township.

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