Army Shoots Man Dead at Bridge Checkpoint in Sittwe

By Moe Myint & Min Aung Khine 2 August 2019

YANGON—An Arakanese man was shot dead by the military on the outskirts of the Rakhine State capital Sittwe on Thursday night while he and a friend were returning home from work on motorbikes, according to family members and the army.

According to relatives, the victim was Ko Chit Thu Aung, 26, who was employed at a mud crab-buying firm situated on the opposite site of the Ah Myint Kyun Bridge linking Ponnagyun Township and Sittwe. The friend who was also present, Ko Zaw Myint Lwin, 27, also works at the company.

The chief of the Myanmar military’s Western Command, Colonel Win Zaw Oo, told The Irrawaddy that his troops shot a man when he attempted to flee after he and another man were told to stop by soldiers conducting inspections on the bridge at about 10 p.m.

“Two motorbikes were driving at 10 p.m. sharp. The first bike did submit to the check, but the other one did not follow orders and tried to speed away. Then [the soldiers] shot him,” Col. Win Zaw Oo said.

Ko Zaw Myint Lwin, who followed the soldiers’ orders, was unharmed but is in Ponnagyun police custody.

U Win Aung, the father of Ko Chit Thu Aung, told The Irrawaddy’s correspondent in Sittwe that he was informed about the death of his son by police and told to collect his body at Sittwe Hospital on Friday morning.

“My son was innocent. I am outraged by their deliberate killing of my son,” he said.

Sittwe is not under a nighttime curfew. Former Rakhine State Border Affairs Minister Colonel Phone Tint, who was recently transferred from Rakhine to another region, imposed a curfew in five townships in the north of Rakhine—Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun, Minbyar and Rathedaung—in April.

When The Irrawaddy asked Ponnagyun Township police chief Major Nyein Chan about the incident, he said a curfew was newly imposed in his township on Friday morning. Ko Zaw Myint Lwin was handed over by the military to police for allegedly violating the curfew order. Maj. Nyein Chan said that the shooting took place in Sittwe’s jurisdiction, and referred The Irrawaddy’s questions to Sittwe police.

Arakanese Union lawmaker U Khin Maung Latt of Ponnagyun constituency said the soldiers exceeded their authority in this case. He said army soldiers should follow procedures step by step instead of firing on suspects.

The incident followed a similar pattern to a shooting that injured Ko Ye Lin Naing, a local employee of Plan International, an international non-government organization (INGO), in Mrauk-U town on Sunday. He was shot twice from behind by army soldiers and is now being sued under Myanmar’s harsh counterterrorism law.

Plan International said in a statement Tuesday that it is “extremely concerned about the wellbeing of a staff member” who was shot in Mrauk-U in Rakhine. The INGO says it is seeking to engage with all relevant stakeholders, including the authorities. Ko Ye Lin Naing remains in the custody of security forces, it said.

At the end of July, a pregnant woman and a man were injured in shootings allegedly carried out by Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) soldiers in Kyauktaw Township. So far, a total 72 civilians have been shot dead, or have died during or after military detention, in Rakhine and 165 have been detained by the army in the past seven months, according to the Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC).

Among the casualties were six Rohingya from Buthidaung Township who were killed in an army air strike in April, and two Rohingyaa boy who died and an adult who was injured—from rural Kyauktaw Township in May. Additionally, a Rohingya girl from Maungdaw was found allegedly raped and killed in June. In its latest report issued in May, Amnesty International (AI) said the Myanmar military is committing fresh war crimes in Rakhine.