International children’s charities have called for an end to the armed conflict in Rakhine State and an investigation following the deaths of four villagers, including two children, after artillery shells fell on their village in Myebon Township, northern Rakhine State, on Tuesday.
Save The Children called for an investigation into the incident and a ceasefire.
The United Nation’s children’s fund (Unicef) on Thursday urged both Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA), which are warring in the state, to protect children and to stop the war.
A seven-year-old boy and girl, her 29-year-old mother and a 25-year-old man died instantly from shrapnel wounds.
Another 10 villagers were wounded and among them, a 21-year-old woman sustained severe head injuries. She is being treated at Sittwe hospital in the state capital but is still unconscious. The others are receiving treatment at the Kan Htaunt Gyi village hospital, according to Ma Kay Thi Soe, a villager from Nyaung Khet Kan.
The villagers and Myebon’s Lower House lawmaker, U Pe Than, said the four shells, reportedly fired by Myanmar’s military, fell on Nyaung Khet Kan (also known as Nyaung Kan) village near the Myebon and Ann township border, around 70km from Myebon town.
Many villagers headed to Kan Htaunt Gyi, about 30 minutes away, following Tuesday morning’s incident.
U Pe Than told The Irrawaddy that villagers said there was no military engagement on Tuesday in Nyaung Kan and the firing came from a battalion based in Ann Township.
Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that troops did not fire that day and claimed the accusations came from the AA.
Unicef said on Thursday that it is deeply concerned about the alarming increase of reports of killings and injuries of children, as a result of intensified fighting between Myanmar’s army and the AA.
The UN agency said: “Their safety and their rights must be a primary consideration in Myanmar, and for all adults who have influence over children’s lives. Unicef strongly urges all parties to protect children at all times and keep them out of harm’s way.”
On Wednesday, Save the Children said the deaths of two children were “unacceptable” and called for “effective investigations and justice for these crimes”.
“Children in this conflict are obviously innocent victims and this matter should really be investigated and people held to account,” said Duncan Harvey, Save The Children’s national director in Myanmar.
He told The Irrawaddy on Thursday: “We really want to make sure that incidents like this are brought to an end. Also we echo the call from the UN secretary-general to call for a ceasefire in all conflicts around the world, including those in Myanmar. Due to the effect of COVID-19, we don’t want a situation in which children are feeling the impact of COVID-19 measures, at the same time having to live in fear of conflicts as well. Those are the reasons we are paying attention to this particular incident.”
The state has also faced a COVID-19 resurgence and state-wide stay-at-home orders.
The conflict has intensified in the north of Rakhine State with the military activities sometimes extending to Ann Township and other southern townships this year.
Nearly 200,000 Rakhine civilians have been affected by the intensified fighting since November 2018 with hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries.
In addition to armed conflicts, the rise of COVID-19 has disrupted people’s health, education, development and security.
Myebon Township has seen less conflict than other areas of northern Rakhine State and the incident this week affected a previously stable area.
U Pe Than said: “As there was no fighting, it seems this incident was a targeted strike as Nyaung Khet Kan is the sole village, surrounded by forests and mountains. We reckon it was an intentional attack.”
He added that although peace was in everyone’s interests, Tuesday’s incident let them doubt whether some people want instability in the whole of Rakhine State.
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