YANGON—A pregnant Rohingya woman from a rural area of conflict-torn Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township lost her unborn child when she was struck in the abdomen by a stray bullet on Sunday, according to locals.
The victim was identified as Saynu Wara Begum, 32, from Sin Thay Pyin village, which was one of the villages spared when military clearance operation in 2017 sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh.
A Rohingya community leader told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity that residents heard the sound of shooting lasting for about half an hour coming from a nearby forest at about 2 p.m. on Sunday.
It was unclear whether a gunfight erupted between the Arakan Army (AA) and government troops, or if one side was just firing randomly in that region, he said. He believed the round that struck Saynu Wara Begum was a stray bullet, as the other homes in his village were untouched.
U Maung Aye Chan, an Arakanese resident of nearby San Goe Taung village, said he had not been given much information about the incident.
He said, “We have no idea whether there was an exchange of fire between two groups or if it was one-way. All we knew was we wanted to run away from the village when we heard shooting.”
A Rohingya man said that Saynu Wara Begum is the mother of three children. She was transported from the village to Buthidaung Hospital in the afternoon by an emergency rescue team. Though she and the rescue team arrived safely, her infant was found to have died after emergency surgery.
A local resident who went to visit the patient at Buthidaung Hospital confirmed that the child she had been carrying was dead when it was removed from her womb, and that the woman was lying on a bed with a drip attached to her arm when he visited.
Sin Thay Pyin village is home to more than 1,800 Rohingya. Like many of their Arakanese neighbors, they have been experiencing financial and food shortages in the region as fighting has intensified between AA and government troops in recent weeks.
Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun of the Myanmar Military Commander-in-Chief’s Office told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that there was a short burst of fighting between government troops and the AA on Sunday near Nwar Yon Taung village, an area close to Sin Thay Pyin village, where Saynu Wara Begum lives.
Asked about the victim, he said he didn’t have any information about the incident as of Tuesday afternoon.
Last week, several hundred locals from five Arakanese villages in Buthidaung—Oo Yin Tha, San Goe Taung, Chit Shar Taung, Nant Thar Taung and Nwar Yon Taung—fled to safer locations as heavy mortar rounds, mostly 60 mm and 120 mm, landed near their villages.
On Friday, both AA spokesman U Khine Thukha and Colonel Win Zaw Oo of the Myanmar military’s Western Command denied any clashes had occurred in rural Buthidaung, as had been reported by Radio Free Asia.
Despite Col. Win Zaw Oo denial, however, the National League for Democracy (NLD)’s Buthidaung Township chair U Ray Thein, who went to San Goe Taung village with an emergency rescue team to evacuate some elderly residents on Saturday, posted on Facebook that two unexploded 60 mm mortars could be seen sticking out of the ground in the village.