Myanmar Navy Shelling Injures Five in Rakhine
By Nyein Nyein 1 October 2019
KYAUKTAW, Rakhine State—Five civilians were injured Tuesday by mortar shelling from the Myanmar navy in Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township, in what the military called “an exchange of gunfire with Arakan Army [AA] troops.”
The shelling hit Mee Wa Village on the Kaladan River early Tuesday morning. A monk and a 13-year-old novice monk were severely wounded and taken to Sittwe Hospital, while the other three injured were taken to Kyauktaw Hospital.
The monk and novice were still in serious condition Tuesday. Shrapnel entered the left side of the monk’s chest, almost hitting the lung. The novice was injured in the head, arm and thigh.
One of the civilians hurt was 19-year-old Ma San San Nwe, a volunteer teacher in a Buddhist monastic school in Mee Wa. She was injured in her right forearm by shrapnel and said that the sound of mortar shelling was loud, and she and others were injured by shell fragments.
Two students were also wounded: Maung Than Pai, 15, sustained head injuries and Maung San Win Hlaing, 14, suffered injuries to the arms and waist.
“We were sleeping but when the sounds of gunfire began, the monk woke us up and told us to run and hide,” said Maung San Win Hlaing. “The monk told me to look out for the other students and I ran but when I did, the shrapnel fell around us.”
The teacher and the two students are being treated at Kyauktaw Hospital, as their wounds were minor. They live at Mee Wa’s monastic school, which provides room and board for students from villages in the area.
Local residents told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the village’s 68-year-old abbot was injured in his chest and said they are worried about the monk. The local residents said they had experienced similar shooting three days earlier and were preparing to go into hiding because they heard the navy’s ships to the east of their village, on the Kaladan River, as well as gunfire to the south of the village.
Colonel Win Zaw Oo, the spokesman for the Myanmar military’s Western Command, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that there were “exchanges of gunfire between the military and AA troops early on Tuesday morning at 2 a.m. that lasted for about 30 minutes.”
“In the case of Mee Wa, we have our troops conducting security patrols along the waterways, to ensure the safe movement of our troops and to prevent further attacks against equipment transported for the Kaladan River Project in Paletwa,” he said, referring to a multi-modal transit and transport project that would link Sittwe, Rakhine State and Paletwa, Chin State, to Kolkata and Zorinpui, India.
The colonel said the military later learned all of the local residents had gathered in the monastery because the military’s troops planned to enter Mee Wa. He said the military arrested two people for spying on the military’s movements but declined to reveal their names. The colonel added that he was not aware of any civilians injured or killed but said those who sustained injuries “are likely to be affiliated with the AA.”
AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy that there was no military engagement in Mee Wa Village on Tuesday, but said the AA had engaged with military troops in Minbya and Myebon townships.
“There was no fighting in Mee Wa last night,” he said. According to the spokesperson, there was fighting in Kyauktaw’s Tin Ma Village on Sept. 29, in Minbya’s Shwe Kyin Village on Sept. 30 and in Myebon Township for a week. In these clashes, the AA was either on the “defensive” or blocking the military’s operations in those areas, according to Khaing Thukha.
U Thein Ngwe Aung, an elder member of the Mee Wa community, said, “It was not fighting, It was one-sided shooting. We heard the sound of navy boat engines and then we heard the sound of guns firing.”
Col. Win Zaw Oo said the navy conducts patrols on a regular basis, sometimes using landing craft.
Local residents said military troops had also set up a base of operations on a hill to the south of the village and targeted the local monastery to the north of the village.
The shelling of Mee Wa on Tuesday is the latest in a series of alleged shellings and shootings by the Myanmar military against civilians in Rakhine State. In Kyauktaw Township alone, nearly three dozen people have been injured since June 26. Many of those wounded were hurt by shrapnel and bullets but others were injured after stepping on landmines, according to sources close to Kyauktaw General Hospital.
As recently as Sunday, mortar shelling destroyed houses in Mee Wa Village and injured three people.
“My father and I were working on the farm,” he told the Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “My father was not injured. They fired mortars from a navy vessel at 8:00 a.m.”
He sought medical attention the next day and is still in Kyauktaw Hospital.
The mortar shelling continued in Kyuaktaw, Minbya and Myebon townships this week.
In Myebon’s Yoe Sa Nwin and Yet Chaung village-tracts, villagers have fled their homes out of fear because mortar shelling has targeted their villages since Sept. 21, according to a local resident as well as the Lower House lawmaker for Myebon, U Pe Than.
U Pe Than told The Irrawaddy that the number of people fleeing their homes in the active conflict zone has increased. A few hundred have arrived to seek shelter in downtown Myebon, he said.
“The artillery shelling has continued and there is also gunfire near Myebon’s villages along the Yangon-Sittwe highway,” he said.
According to a local resident of Yoe Sa Nwin, who requested anonymity, people from his village have been fleeing to Pin Kat Village in Myebon and other villages near the boundary between Myebon and Minbya townships.
Additional reporting by Min Aung Khine.