YANGON—A civilian was fatally shot as a group of displaced residents went to fetch rice on Wednesday in war-torn Paletwa Township in southern Chin State, where the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) are engaged in ongoing fighting.
“I heard that they were shot from the forest on their way to get rice. The victim is U Myo Thant, age 46,” said U Kyaw Aung, secretary of the township’s community-based organization to help people affected by clashes and disasters. “He was killed on the spot. But I don’t know about the others, I don’t know if they were injured or not.”
U Myo Thant, a native of Nanchaungwa Village, was taking shelter at the camp for internally displace persons (IDPs) in Seint Sin Village. He is survived by his wife and his two children, one 8 years old and the other a few months old.
Some 20 displaced people from Seint Sin camp, including U Myo Thant, walked about 5 km to Nanchaungwa to get rice. Nanchaungwa suffered bombings from air strikes by the Myanmar military on April 7, which killed seven civilians and burned down dozens of houses.
The IDPs were reportedly shot from the forest on their way to Nanchaungwa. “There are only the Tatmadaw [the Myanmar military] and the AA in Paletwa, and only those two are fighting. They can fight, but they need to consider civilians,” said U Kyaw Aung.
“People are quite frightened by shootings on sight like this, without distinguishing between civilians, the AA and the Tatmadaw. They don’t even dare go outside their villages now,” he added.
Paletwa Township, due to its remote location, is only accessible by water from Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw and by road from Matupi. The township brings in most of its basic foods from Kyauktaw via the Kaladan River.
Fierce clashes near Paletwa since February between the Myanmar military and the AA have effectively blocked transportation between Paletwa and neighboring Kyauktaw, leaving Paletwa isolated and short of food.
Transportation by boat along the river is not safe and the Myanmar military has blocked the road to Matupi for security concerns.
The government and civil society organizations have supplied rice for the displaced people, but the IDPs say the supplies are not enough.
Ma Mai Nan Wai, spokeswoman for the Relief and Rehabilitation Committee for Chin IDPs, said the displaced people informed the Myanmar military before they went to Nanchaungwa to fetch rice.
Ma Mai Nan Wai said the displaced people had said they were shot by Myanmar military. The Irrawaddy was not able to get a firsthand account from any of the displaced people and could not independently verify the reports due to the circumstances.
Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that he did not know about the shooting and that the Tatmadaw has no reason to shoot the IDPs.
“A WFP aid convoy was shot between Seint San and Nanchaungwa. The Myanmar military is also helping with the transportation of rice to the area,” he said.
A WFP aid convoy transporting rice for displaced persons was shot between Paletwa and Samee in late April. The Myanmar military and the AA traded blame for the attack.
Ma Mai Nan Wai said that both sides are responsible for the lack of safety around the transportation of food for civilians. She described the disruptions to food shipments for civilians as a violation of human rights.
“Our people went there [to Nanchaungwa] because we were told they can do so if they get permission. It would be better if the Myanmar military accompanied them and provided security in such cases. Even if they don’t want to accompany them, it is still their responsibility to talk to the other side to ensure the safety of civilians on the way. What we understand is that it is the responsibility of the military to provide protection and security,” she added.
On May 26, Auk Meeletwa Village, which is on the opposite bank of the Kaladan River from Paletwa, was set on fire. The village was abandoned by local residents who fled on March 8 following clashes.
On May 30, a displaced woman was fatally shot when she and others paddled from Paletwa to their home in Auk Meeletwa Village to collect firewood for cooking.
In both incidents, the Myanmar military and the AA blamed one another. Between January and June 10, 41 civilians have been killed in the fighting in Paletwa, and more than 11,000 have been forced from their homes into camps in urban Paletwa. More than 130 have fled from Paletwa to Yangon.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.
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