Two Children Drown Fleeing Fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine

By Min Aung Khine 21 October 2019

SITTWE, Rakhine State – Two siblings drowned as residents fled clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) near Lekka and Waithali villages in Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township on Saturday morning.

Clashes inside Lekka started at dawn and some houses were burned, said U Thein Kyaw Mya, who lives near Lekka.

“The clash broke out around 6 a.m. It was quite fierce. We saw artillery shells fired from Mrauk-U and some houses burning in Lekka,” he told The Irrawaddy.

AA media officer Khaing Thukha said the rebel army attacked Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) troops based in Lekka because they were troubling villagers. The AA also intercepted military reinforcements near Waithali, he said.

The Tatmadaw suffered casualties and the AA seized weapons and ammunition, Khaing Thuka said without providing details.

Colonel Win Zaw Oo, a spokesman for the military’s Western Command, claimed the AA attacked from a monastery and school near where troops were conducting clearance operations around the village.

“We conducted clearance operations on Saturday. Around 80 AA troops attacked us from the monastery and school in the village. The clashes lasted nearly six hours. We retrieved some dead bodies and weapons from the enemy. We also suffered some damage,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The clashes forced the closure of the central market in Mrauk-U and the road from Mrauk-U to Kyauktaw on Saturday.

As Waithali villagers fled by boat, two siblings aged 16 and 3 drowned in a creek, according to U Thein Kyaw Mya.

“As the clash took place near their village, they fled by boat. They arrived at our village. But then bullets also hit our village. They didn’t feel safe and left for another village. Their boat capsized and two children died,” U Thein Kyaw Mya told The Irrawaddy.

The two sides also confirmed clashes near Daing Tha Village in Minbya Township and mountains near Buddaw Village in Ponnagyun Township on Saturday. Each side claimed the other suffered casualties in the clashes.

More than 60,000 people have been displaced by clashes since January in northern Rakhine State, according to the Rakhine Ethnic Congress.

The Rakhine State government has said it plans to provide shelter for the displaced, but many of those who fled their homes are still living in tents.

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