SITTWE, Rakhine State – The Rakhine State government was asked on Wednesday to investigate civilian deaths during clashes between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine State.
Rakhine State lawmaker U Tun Tha Sein submitted a proposal urging the state government to form an investigation committee of lawmakers, officials and civil society organizations to examine civilian deaths in the clashes.
The number of civilians being killed or injured in clashes is increasing with 80 deaths and around 120 injuries between January and Aug. 29, he said.
None of them were killed or injured in combat but instead hit by artillery shells in their houses and villages. Children as young as 2 and elderly people were among the casualties, U Tun Tha Sein told the Parliament.
“As clashes are also taking place in Myebon and Ann townships, eight townships are now experiencing clashes. Civilians, who have nothing to do with the conflict, are being killed and injured. The government needs to tell the people who is responsible for the deaths. That’s why I submitted this proposal,” the lawmaker told The Irrawaddy.
Despite objections from the military-appointed lawmakers, the Parliament voted to discuss the proposal.
The state’s military-appointed minister for security and border affairs, Colonel Min Than, told the media that it was too early for an inquiry.
“The AA has instilled fear in villagers. Under such circumstances, an investigation team can’t collect information. Villagers will not tell the truth. Some may want to tell the truth, but then they might be killed [by the AA] if they do so. It is still early to form an investigation team,” he said.
The Tatmadaw (military) and the AA have blamed each other for artillery attacks. “In fighting, the two sides do not shoot directly at each other. There is a distance, perhaps around 300 meters or more, between the two sides. As they shoot, bullets may spread over an area. As clashes take place near villages, villagers are therefore hurt. So what I want to tell the AA is stay away from villages. If they are soldiers, then fight like soldiers,” said Col. Min Than.
U Tun Tha Sein MP said an investigation will uncover the truth if it did not rely solely on the accounts of villagers but also evidence based on shrapnel and casings at the scene.
“There will be casings and grenade fins. So we can carefully examine them and find out. It is incorrect to say the investigation is too early,” U Tun Tha Sein told The Irrawaddy.
His proposal was seconded by Union Solidarity and Development Party lawmaker U Tun Hla Sein of Maungdaw Township.
Parliamentarians wishing to debate the proposal need to register by Friday.
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