YANGON – A teenager and two men were killed in a landmine explosion in Pyaung Pike village of northern Maungdaw, Rakhine State, on Saturday morning.
Four Muslims–the teenager, two men and a boy—were farming a paddy field between Ngasar Kyu and Pyaung Pike villages when the mine exploded, according to a statement from the State Counselor’s communication team.
The group are thought to be Rohingya, a stateless minority in the region, although the government does not use the term, referring to them instead as “Bengali,” implying they are migrants from Bangladesh.
Sweyut Dula, 14, was killed on the spot, while Pheran, 60 and Usman, 17, died after police brought them to Maungdaw general hospital at around 1 p.m., according to a police official. A fourth victim—12-year-old Kiman Husaung—was also taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The statement said the farmers were returning to a hill for lunch at 11 a.m. when they stepped on the mine, adding that security forces cleared the mine blast area afterwards. It is unclear who planted the mine.
Earlier this week, the government gave access to 15 local and international media outlets to visit the conflict-torn Maungdaw for the first time since a military crackdown in the region in October, triggered by a group of insurgents attacking border posts.
The reporters planned to visit villages in northern Rakhine where state security forces have been accused of raping and killing Rohingya Muslims among other claims of human rights abuses during the crackdown. The press pack returned from Maungdaw to Rakhine State capital Sittwe on Saturday.
Security forces killed two militants and arrested another in northern Buthidaung Township’s Tin May village last week, according to state media. Security forces are on high alert after a recent spate of machete killings in Rakhine’s northern villages.
Correction: A previous version of this story reported that the press pack returned from Maungdaw to Sittwe on the advice of government officials after the mine exploded. The press pack were in fact scheduled to leave Maungdaw on Saturday, July 15. Their return was not related to the mine explosion.