YANGON — A ferryboat operator in northern Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township was shot dead Monday morning by soldiers stationed at a temporary military base in the area, according to a local resident.
U Maung Win, a resident of Ahmyet Taung Village, identified the man as U Maung Chay, 33, a casual laborer and father of two from the same village.
He said U Maung Chay had dropped off two passengers from Ye Soe Chaung Village on the banks of the river of the same name and was heading back to the opposite shore when some soldiers from the military tactical operations base in Ye Soe Chaung called after him to turn back. But he said U Maung Chay probably could not hear them over the noise of the boat’s motor and kept going, at which point about four of the soldiers opened fire.
U Maung Win said U Maung Chay was hit by two bullets, on in the back and one in the arm, and that his body was taken to Rathedaung General Hospital Tuesday morning.
He said there was no fighting in the area between the military and rebel Arakan Army (AA) and that the military, which controls the area, had not informed locals that any locations were off limits.
Residents of Min Byar Township’s Kalarma Tuang Village reported a similar incident on Monday as well.
Ko Khine Thura Hein said his brother, Maung Win Htay, was driving his boat across a local river with four passengers heading home to Kalarma Tuang Village from the neighboring town of Myebon when about 10 soldiers crossing a nearby bridge at the time opened fire on the boat. He said a bullet hit Maung Win Htay in the leg and that his brother then docked the boat near the bridge.
According to Ko Khine Thura Hein, the soldiers, from Light Infantry Battalion 380 based in Min Byar, said they had whistled at the boat to stop for inspection and then fired warning shots into the air, not at the boat.
Ko Khine Thura Hein said he was not aware of any official restrictions on movement in the area.
“They should not target innocent civilian like this,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the military, said he was not aware of any shooting in Min Byar on Monday.
He said soldiers from the tactical operations base in Ye Soe Chaung did exchange fire for a few minutes that day with AA fighters who ambushed them from a mangrove forest and that the boatman was likely caught in the crossfire.
Last week, soldiers shot dead five civilians in Buthidaung Township’s Say Taung Village and wounded eight others, driving the more than 2,000 residents from their homes for refuge in nearby urban areas. Locals said the shooting was unprovoked. The military said it was responding to AA attacks.