Three Soldiers Killed in RPG Attack in Northern Rakhine State

By Moe Myint 17 December 2018

YANGON—Three army soldiers were killed and more than 10 wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack by an unknown armed group in strife-torn northern Rakhine’s Rathedaung Township on Sunday morning.

A police officer from Buthidaung Township confirmed  to The Irrawaddy that a military logistics truck was struck by an unknown armed group near Htee Swea and Kyauk Tan villages. According to the officer, the injured soldiers were receiving medical treatment at a 100-bed hospital in the town.

Police denied a rumor circulating on Facebook on Monday morning that some women and children were also riding in the Army truck as passengers on the way to a market. The police officer clarified that this information was wrong and that the only people on the truck were soldiers carrying supplies to the front when they were ambushed.

The officer said the incident took place about 5 miles from downtown Rathedaung. Kyauk Tan village is situated in the foothills of the Awrama mountain range. The area is actively contested between the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army (AA).

The Irrawaddy phoned spokesmen from both the Tatmadaw and the AA on Monday in an effort to obtain more details about Sunday’s RPG attack, including a confirmed death toll, but both sides declined to comment. The Office of the Commander in Chief had not released any statement regarding the reported death of the three soldiers or details of the casualties as of Monday morning.

The AA posted an update regarding armed clashes via their information page on Facebook on Sunday. It said fighting broke out in Rathedaung Township’s Thaung Da Rar and Htee Swea villages, as well as Ponnagyun Township’s Kha Maung and Maung Hna Ma and Kyun Thar Yar villages, respectively.

It did not elaborate on the causalities or which battalion of the Tatmadaw was involved. The AA said it was bracing for further clashes once the Tatmadaw reinforced its frontline positions with more troops.

U Aung Thaung Shwe, an Arakanese lawmaker in the Union Parliament from Buthidaung constituency, said poorly informed villagers were frightened of surprise inspections and questioning by the military. Last week, a military column surrounded a village and checked every single home, one by one.

“I have requested authorized organizations not to cause overwhelming fear among villagers when they enter villages for questioning,” U Aung Than Shwe said.

He said some villagers from his constituency told him that artillery shells had exploded near their homes last week, causing them to flee to a nearby village. Although his township has no proper displaced persons camp, some residents had already left their villages for safer locations along the Sai Din River.

According to the lawmaker, as skirmishes had erupted in Ponnagyun, Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Chin State’s Paletwa Township, the IDP population could be higher than the reported number, as many members of Arakanese sub-ethnic groups live in remote areas. Some 300 IDPs have been sheltering in Ponnagyun Township, while some local relief workers were providing humanitarian assistance to them.

“The fighting will surely intensify as the AA has gained a strong foothold in these areas,” U Aung Thaung Shwe said.

According to an AA press release, the ethnic armed group has clashed with the military on more than 20 occasions in recent weeks. Last week, the military officially announced that some high-ranking soldiers were killed by the AA, and that it had the bodies of four deceased AA members.