Army Says 6 Villagers Shot Dead in Detention in N. Rakhine

By Moe Myint 2 May 2019

YANGON—Six villagers from northern Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township were shot dead while in Army detention at around 2.00 a.m. on Thursday, while eight others were wounded and four were missing, according to the Myanmar Army.

The shooting took place in Kyauk Tan village, situated 17 km north of the Ratheadung urban area.

Those killed and wounded were among 275 people temporarily held by the Army at a government school in the village since Tuesday. The Office of the Commander-in-Chief announced the detention on the same day, saying that men aged between 15 and 50 in Kyauktan village were held on suspicion of having ties with the Arakan Army (AA).

Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun from the Tatmadaw (Military) Information Team confirmed the deaths of six villagers and injuries to eight others to The Irrawaddy on Thursday. He said the Army had no choice but to open fire on the detainees as they tried to snatch guns from the soldiers.

On Thursday evening, the military information team released another announcement on the incident, mostly identical to what Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy but with the addition that four people were missing.

“Around 1 a.m., some [detainees] started to get wild, shouting at the security forces and attempting to attack them. We issued some warnings, including firing some warning shots. But it was in vain. They even tried to snatch the security forces’ weapons. So, the security forces finally opened fire,” he said.

The brigadier general said the Army overtook some AA camps on April 28 and 30 near Buthidaung Township. He added the Army was informed that some escaped AA members were taking shelter at Kyauktan village, and interrogated 275 men, assuring them that if they had no ties with the AA they would be released.

As of Thursday afternoon, all eight wounded had been taken to the General Hospital in Sittwe, Rakhine State’s capital. But the bodies of those killed were still in the village and villagers were under interrogation, according to some locals.

A schoolteacher from Kyauk Tan village said dozens of soldiers came into the village at around 10 a.m. on Tuesday and then ordered a village official to publicly announce that the Army would be questioning residents.

The village official announced that those aged over 15 must come to the school and if they failed to follow the order, the military would not be responsible for the consequences if someone hid or was found during household inspections by soldiers and border police. Then, about 400 men were assembled at the village school.

Later on, some 100 people aged under 15 and above 60 were released.  Until evening, the situation was calm but at around 2.00 a.m., the villagers were awoken by gunshots and some artillery explosions.

A schoolteacher said, “We clearly heard about 20 gunshots in the school at night and some very loud screaming of villagers was heard from there.”

At 11 a.m. Thursday morning, the Army allowed wounded persons to be transported for medical treatment. At around 12 a.m., patients were transported by boat to Zay Di Pyin model village’s hospital for emergency care. They were expected to be brought to Sittwe Hospital in the afternoon.

Zay Di Pyin villager Zaw Myo Tun helped the wounded patients at his village and live-streamed the situation.

One patient whose abdomen was wrapped in a bandage said that while detainees were sleeping in the middle of the school sports pitch, a detainee who had been scared by the detention jumped over the fence and escaped. Soldiers fired at the man and more than 200 detainees stood up to see what was happening. Unexpectedly, soldiers surrounded them from both sides and fired into the crowd.

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach any eyewitnesses by phone on Thursday.

The schoolteacher said that as of 10 a.m. this morning, dozens of soldiers were stationed in the village. Emergency rescue teams, including members of the International Red Cross (ICRC) as well as lawmakers, have been banned from entering the village to pick up the bodies or patients.

Schoolteachers and multiple sources from the village identified the dead villagers as Zaw Latt, Maung Win, La Phyu Thee, Than Khae Aung, Maung Than Oo, Aung Zaw Linn and Kha Mwee Chay.

In April, apart from Kayuktan village, several clashes happened between the AA and Army troops in Rathedaung Township.