SITTWE—Residents of the village of Amyet Taung, in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, fled from their homes Friday after some of their houses were set on fire, purportedly by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw), they say.
According to villagers, after hearing gunshots from clashes north of them, near the village of Zee Khaung, Tatmadaw soldiers came to their village and set their houses on fire.
“We don’t know what had happened to them [soldiers]. They entered our village while firing their guns and set fire to some houses,” Amyet Taung villager U Ba Maung told The Irrawaddy.
Zee Khaung is some two miles from Amyet Taung. When local villagers saw Tatmadaw soldiers heading to their village, some hid in bomb shelters and others fled, he said.
Eleven houses—eight in the western and three in the eastern part of the village—were set ablaze, locals said, plus one villager’s farm hut.
“Many had fled when Tatmadaw soldiers came. I hid in the bomb shelter. When we got out [from the bomb shelter] after they left, we saw the houses were on fire,” Amyet Taung villager Daw Ma May told The Irrawaddy.
Asked if they had witnessed Tatmadaw soldiers setting fire to the houses, villagers said they only saw it from a distance.
The Irrawaddy was unable to reach the administrator of Rathedaung Township.
Colonel Win Zaw Oo, spokesperson of the Tatmadaw’s Western Command, denied any clashes or Tatamdaw clearance operations near Amyet Taung Village.
“We did not engage in fighting near Amyet Taung [on July 5]. We did engage near Alel Chaung Village, which is some seven or eight miles north of Amyet Taung. We don’t know who set fire to Amyet Taung. Perhaps it was done by the AA [Arakan Army],” Colonel Win Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy.
When asked about some villagers’ claims that they saw Tatmadaw troops entering the village and setting fire to houses, Col. Win Zaw Oo said, “Is there any evidence? Our troops were not near there, and we only clashed near Alel Chaung Village.”
Alel Chaung Village is located in Buthidaung Township.
Ko Kyaw Kyaw Naing, who had fled from Alel Chaung Village to a nearby camp for displaced persons, told The Irrawaddy that he heard gunshots near his village and saw smoke.
“I don’t know what happened at the village. I dare not go and see, but I saw smoke there,” Ko Kyaw Kyaw Naing told The Irrawaddy.
AA information officer Khaing Thukha said eight clashes took place between the Tatmadaw and the AA in four townships on July 5—Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Kyauktaw, in Rakhine State, and Paletwa, in Chin State.
“We clashed at a place around one kilometer south of Zee Khaung Village, in Rathedaung. Their side [the Tatmadaw] suffered six casualties in the clash. There was no fighting near Amyet Taung, but as they suffered casualties [in clashes in Zee Khaung], they set fire [to Amyet Taung] on their way back,” Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.
U Khin Maung Latt, an Upper House lawmaker in Rathedaung Township, said he would raise a question about the burning of houses at Parliament, which resumes next week.
There are over 200 households in Amyet Taung Village. Many residents have fled to nearby villages, he said.
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