YANGON — Two civilians in northern Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township were wounded by shrapnel from artillery fire after the Myanmar Army began shooting and shelling in the area on Wednesday night and into Thursday, according to locals.
Mrauk-U resident Ko Than Tun said about 460 people fled Baungdwat Village, about 3 km south of the township’s urban center, on Thursday and have taken shelter at the Myothit monastery in central Mrauk-U.
Daw Khine Sein Hla, one of the villagers who fled, said two light infantry battalions stationed near Baungdwat on Dataw hill, No. 377 and No. 388, began shooting heavily at about 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
She said a shell hit a home and injured a man, U Maung Tun Aye, in the face and his daughter, Ma Htay Htay Aung, 14, in the arm. The shooting and shelling prevented emergency rescue teams from taking them to the general hospital in the center of Mrauk-U right away, she added.
Daw Khine Sein Hla said other homes were also hit by bullets and shells but no one died. Having gone through a similar experience on Saturday, she said, they were quick to head for makeshift bomb shelters.
On the previous occasion one man, U Maung Kyaw Sein, 60, was killed and another man, U Kyaw Thein, was injured. Residents of Baungdwat said U Kyaw Thein was first taken to the general hospital in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, but later transferred to Yangon.
One resident, U Kyaw Hla Sein, said the army has build more than a dozen positions on Dataw hill and claimed that soldiers have periodically been firing randomly and unprovoked into the air since early this month.
“The Light Infantry Battalion 377 compound is situated a stone’s throw from my village. Although we did not catch them red-handed, we can sense it,” said U Kyaw Hla Sein, referring to the shooting and shelling.
In a statement about the shooting near Baungdwat, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief claimed that the rebel Arakan Army (AA) had ambushed a military base in the area from a government-run school on Wednesday night. It made no mention of any injuries to villagers or damage to homes.
The statement said military officials met with the villagers who stayed behind in Baungdwat, urging them to not support the AA, to inform security forces if the group tried to make contact with them, and to cooperate with authorities to promote peace and stability.
Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun could not be reached on Friday afternoon for further comment.
Separately, residents of three villages in Buthidaung Township also fled their homes when the army started shelling in the area on Friday.
The Rakhine Ethnic Congress, a non-government groups, says more than 10,000 people displaced by the fighting between the military and AA are now taking shelter in Mrauk-U alone. The group estimates that more than 32,000 displaced people are taking shelters across northern Rakhine.