Artillery Shell Strikes School, Injuring 21 Young Students in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

By Min Aung Khine 14 February 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine State—A total of 21 students were injured when an artillery shell hit a post-primary school in Buthidaung Township, Rakhine State on Thursday morning.

At least 11 people have been killed and 51 injured by artillery shells landing on villages in Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Kyauktaw townships since Jan. 7, according to The Irrawaddy’s count.

In Thursday’s incident, students from grades 2 through 5 were in their classrooms when the artillery shell struck the roof of the school in Kha Mwe Chaung Village, San Hnyin Wai Village-Tract, according to teacher U Tha Aye Maung.

“An artillery shell landed and exploded at around 10 a.m. this morning. A fifth-grade female student was seriously wounded. We think the artillery shell came from the south of the village,” U Aye Tha Maung told The Irrawaddy.

The injured students were rushed to Buthidaung Township Hospital.

Residents of Kha Mwe Chaung said the incident followed clashes between the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army (AA) some 3 miles (nearly 5 kilometers) to the north of the village at around 9 a.m. on Thursday.

“We don’t know where the artillery shell came from. Students were running out of the school covered in blood, so we didn’t have time to notice. We have the fins from the artillery shell. We don’t know which type it is. We are all now at the hospital,” U Kyaw Tha Khaing, an administrative official from the village, told The Irrawaddy at noon on Thursday.

Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team said there was a clash with the AA near the village at around 10 a.m.

“I heard that 15 [students] were injured when the artillery shell fell on the village. We sent two of them to Buthidaung Hospital on our military truck. Others received minor injuries and our military medics are providing treatment for them,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

AA information officer Khaing Thuka confirmed the clashes with government troops from the Tatmadaw’s Battalion 551 around a kilometer to the northeast of Kan Bine Village in Buthidaung Township on Thursday morning. But he gave a different account of the time of the clash, and blamed the Myanmar military for the artillery shell.

“There was a huge gap [in time] between the clash and when the artillery shell struck the school. The clash broke out at around 9.15 a.m. and was over before 9.30 a.m. [The shell] was recklessly fired by the MOC-15 [the Tatmadaw’s 15th Military Operations Command based in Buthidaung]. The school was hit and students were injured,” Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.

The majority of the residents of Kha Mwe Chaung Village are ethnic Khami people, and the village has a population of around 300 with 50 houses.

On Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m., three people including a 1-year-old toddler were killed and two others were severely injured when artillery struck their home in Yay Chan Pyin, a Muslim village in Buthidaung township.

Four students, three of whom were due to sit the matriculation examination in March, were seriously injured when an artillery shell landed near the riverbank where they were playing football in Myauktaung Village in Kyauktaw Township on Tuesday.

A 52-year-old woman was injured by an artillery shell while working on her farm in Tinma Village in Kyauktaw Township on Wednesday evening. And a 30-year-old Rohingya resident of Sin The Pyin Village in Buthidaung Township was hit by a bullet while carrying firewood near the riverbank in his village on Feb. 5.

On Jan. 24, two Rohingya women were killed and seven other people were injured when artillery shells landed in Kintaung Village in Buthidaung Township. On Jan. 7, four Rohingya children were killed and six others were injured in a mine explosion in the same township.

Civilian deaths and injuries have been reported on a daily basis amid the clashes between the Myanmar military and the AA in northern Rakhine State.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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