Myanmar Army Says It Recaptures Village in Buthidaung from AA

By Min Aung Khine 5 September 2019

SITTWE, Rakhine State—A military spokesman claimed on Wednesday afternoon that the Myanmar army took control of Oo Yin Tha, a village the military said had been used as a base camp by Arakan Army (AA) troops in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township. 

Colonel Win Zaw Oo from the military’s Western Command told The Irrawaddy, “The villagers knew how long it took for us to take control of the village with our operation. The AA had established a foothold there for three days. We conducted a clearance operation in the village and took control of it [on Wednesday], at around 4 p.m.”  

In July, the entire population of Oo Yin Tha fled their homes after the village was targeted by artillery and mortar shells. The villagers have been taking shelter in the nearby Kyar Nyo Pyin camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) since then. 

The village comprises 53 households. 

Villager Daw Oo San Yin told The Irrawaddy, “We fled our homes two months ago after the soldiers opened fire on us like rainfall.” She said the villagers weren’t sure which troops had been staying in the villages since they left, but had recently heard that the soldiers torched the homes. “We saw the smoke and flames coming from the village. We can still see the fires today. We don’t know how many homes were burned. We dare not go and look,” she added.

U Khaing Thuka, a spokesman for the AA, denied the military’s accusations as “groundless.” He said AA troops were neither stationed in Oo Yin Tha village nor engaged in any fighting Wednesday night. 

He said, “They shot into the village and burned the homes. This shows that the Army is using a scorched-earth policy against Rakhine civilians.”   

After the military’s clearance operation, homes in Oo Yin Tha village in San Goe Taung village tract and Sin Thay Pyin village were burned on Wednesday afternoon. San Goe Taung village tract has six villages that are home to both Rakhine and Rohingya villagers, all of whom have fled. 

U Aung Thaung Shwe, a Lower House lawmaker from Buthidaung constituency, said the villagers informed him that Oo Yin Tha village had been burned. “The villagers who fled their homes do not dare go and look; the military took up positions in San Goe Taung and Nwar Yone Taung villages more than a month ago,” he said.  

Col. Win Zaw Oo insisted that AA troops were present in the village, saying the military has evidence that the rebel troops built bunkers in the local school and monastery. He said the AA troops retreated to Sin Thay Pyin village and the soldiers followed them.  

The colonel said, “AA troops took up positions in the monastery and school. We returned fire on them. So how could these villages avoid being set alight, when they were in the crossfire? We have the bodies of five AA troops.”

U Mahmoud Jonny from Sin Thay Pyin village told The Irrawaddy, “We have been fleeing for seven days now. We run with only the clothes on our backs; we did not have time to take anything. We left six people to watch the village, but yesterday they also fled as the village burned. Today as well, there are houses burning in the area; we cannot say which village is on fire, as it is raining [where we are].” 

Sin Thay Pyin village hosts more than 300 Rohingya households, but all of the villagers are now taking temporary shelter at Htake Tuu Pauk village in Buthidaung Township.  

U Mahmoud Jonny said his village was hit by mortar shelling in late August, killing one woman and injuring eight others.  

More than 60,000 local residents have been displaced since the fighting in Rakhine State intensified late last year. 

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