Woman, 18, Killed in Her Home as Army Opens Fire on Village in N. Rakhine

By Moe Myint 21 February 2019

YANGON—An 18-year-old woman was shot dead, a 4-year-old girl was injured and two villagers were arrested by the Myanmar military in Myin Hpu village of northern Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township on Wednesday, village administrative officials and residents said.

Myin Hpu village administrator U Moe Kaung, who attended the funeral of the dead woman, Ma Ye Ye Soe, on Thursday afternoon, told The Irrawaddy over the phone that she had been shot in the face, with a bullet shattering her cheek.

He said that at about 10 o’clock on Wednesday, about five fully equipped soldiers led by a major and a captain questioned him at his home, while about 40 other soldiers took up positions in the village.

A mine exploded near the village at 11:30 a.m.. Though no one was hurt in the attack, the blast prompted the Army troops to randomly shoot into the village, sending locals fleeing to safer locations.

Some villagers were able to escape the indiscriminate shooting, but Ma Ye Ye Soe was struck by the gunfire in her home. Although there was no gunfire coming from the village, the Army unit fired on the village for almost one hour, leaving some homes riddled with bullet holes.

U Moe Kaung was tied up with a rope for several hours but set free by the soldiers when the situation returned to normal. He said two villagers, U Than Pe and Ko Wai Soe Tun, were detained by soldiers and taken away from the village at about 6 p.m. on Wednesday. U Moe Kaung said he reported the Army’s arbitrary arrests and reckless firing on the village to the General Administration Department (GAD) as well as to local legislators.

“I witnessed with my own eyes that Army soldiers were the only armed group shooting at the homes,” U Moe Kaung said.

On Thursday evening Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, re-tweeted a photograph apparently showing Ma Ye Ye Soe’s dead body with a large bullet wound in her face. Lee wrote above the image: “Civilians must never be targeted!”

U Bar Daung, father of Ma Kay Thi Soe, 4, confirmed that his daughter was injured in the shooting and was receiving medical treatment in the Rakhine state capital at Sittwe General Hospital on Thursday. He also said the shooting was entirely one-way, following the mine explosion near the village.

After the shooting, soldiers detained about 100 men on the shore of a nearby lake from about 11.00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ko Maung Than Win, one of the detainees in Wednesday’s raid, claimed that the villagers were ordered to kneel down on the shore and not to look at the soldiers’ faces. At about 5 p.m., the soldiers freed all of the villagers except U Than Pe and Ko Wai Soe Tun.

“They did not allow us to drink a sip of water or eat anything. No one dared to speak or glance up, even as the soldiers kicked them in the face,” Ko Maung Than Win said.

Primary school teacher Daw Moe Kyi from Myin Hpu village said some soldiers followed three local residents into the compound of the village school and fired several rounds. Mobile devices were grabbed by soldiers and later returned to the teachers.

“The school exam was also halted,” Daw Moe Kyi said.

Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief could not be reached for comment on Thursday. On Wednesday, he told The Irrawaddy he had no information about the incident in Rathedaung. Some locals told The Irrawaddy that the military unit belongs to the Myanmar Army’s 22nd Division, and transported the two detainees to Zay Di Pyin Police Station on Thursday.