Myanmar Military Commander, 6 Soldiers Killed in Mine Attack, AA Says

By Min Aung Khine 15 November 2019

SITTWE—A Myanmar military battalion commander and six other soldiers were killed in a mine attack launched by the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township on Wednesday, according to AA information officer Khaing Thukha.

The AA attacked the military troops using remote-detonated mines around noon on Wednesday near the village of Thayet Tapin.

“We intercepted military troops at a bridge over Tha Yee Creek near Thayet Tapin Village around 12 p.m. yesterday,” Khaing Thuka told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

“Seven soldiers, including Light Infantry Battalion 374 commander Lieutenant-Colonel Yan Naung Win, were killed and some were injured,” he said.

The bridge is located near the Yangon-Sittwe road.

“Yesterday, we heard an explosion beyond the bridge. Nobody dared to go outside after hearing the explosion,” a resident of Thayet Tapin Village told The Irrawaddy. “All the shop owners by the road have closed their shops and stayed in their houses since then. Soldiers are still staying at those shops.”

The road was temporarily closed after the incident and was reopened around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, according to local residents.

However, Myanmar military Western Command spokesperson Colonel Win Zaw Oo denied there was any mine explosion or that any soldiers were killed near Thayet Tapin Village on Wednesday.

“There was only a mine explosion near Lekka Village [in Mrauk-U Township]. Some soldiers were injured,” said Col. Win Zaw Oo. “Maybe [military soldiers] went to Thayet Tapin to check household lists in connection with an interrogation at Ywatharyar Village,” he added.

Since Sunday, the military has been checking the number of people in Ywatharyar Village against household registration lists. The village has around 400 households and is located in Myebon Township. The military detained some local residents on suspicion of having ties to the AA and many residents of Ywatharyar, scared to stay in their homes, fled on Thursday morning, according to Myebon Township Lower House lawmaker U Pe Than.

“I heard that the military blockaded the village. Villagers could not leave and outsiders could not enter the village for three days. The military arrested five villagers. We don’t know where they were taken. Villagers were concerned for their safety and have fled their homes,” the lawmaker told The Irrawaddy.

Col. Win Zaw Oo said the military conducted interrogations of local residents in Ywatharyar Village because it was necessary.

“We are an official organization. We have to conduct interrogations if necessary. If not, [the AA] plants and remotely detonates bombs at village exits. We conducted interrogations because we received a tip-off and it was necessary. Local residents are exaggerating when they say this is a crime. If they did nothing wrong, they have nothing to worry about,” the military spokesperson told The Irrawaddy.

Lawmaker U Pe Than said the authorities involved haven’t given straight replies when asked about the five residents who were arrested.

“We are doing as much as we can for those villagers. We have contacted authorities. The military has only vaguely replied. If the villagers are guilty, they can prosecute them, but now we don’t know their whereabouts and the military hasn’t answered our enquiry,” U Pe Than told The Irrawaddy.

On Nov. 10, a 32-year-old woman was shot dead by military soldiers while traveling back to Watyu Village from Ywartharyar by boat with her husband.

The Myanmar military and the AA have clashed in northern Rakhine State for nearly a year on an almost daily basis, since late 2018. Casualty figures for the two sides are still unknown but some people believe the fighting has been the deadliest since the country’s democratic transition started in 2011.

As the fighting goes on, the war zone has expanded and civilian casualties have also increased.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko