Govt Told to Take ‘Full Responsibility’ as Burma Army Shells Kill Eight Rakhine State Villagers

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Artillery shells fired by the Burma Army killed at least eight civilians and injured eight more in a village in Ponnagyun Township, Rakhine State, on Monday, local sources said.

At around 8:00 a.m. the shells landed and exploded in Kyauk Seik village, located on the Sittwe-Yangon highway near the Kaladan River.

“I saw two dead bodies when they arrived at Ponnagyun hospital. Then I went to Kyauk Seik village. I saw four dead bodies there. A total of six people died [initially],” Sittwe-based human rights activist Khaing Myo Tun told NMG.

He added that another two people with injuries were transferred to Sittwe hospital but died en route when they were delayed at a Burma Army checkpoint.

“Burmese soldiers had blocked the road at a checkpoint and took time to check all those passing the checkpoint. That’s why the two injured people died on the way to the hospital in Sittwe. Therefore, a total of eight people died. It’s confirmed,” Khaing Myo Tun told NMG, adding that eight more remain injured.

Two of those injured are reportedly in critical condition and are receiving treatment in Ponnagyun’s public hospital.

Khaing Myo Tun said that on the day of the shelling—April 13—there were no clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army in the area.

“Villagers said that [the Burma Army’s] LIB 550 had frequently opened fire using heavy artillery from the mountains for two to three days. Shells landed in the village today,” the rights activist said on Monday.

LIB 550 is based near Ponnagyun.

NMG also called the military’s True News Information Team for comment on the violence in Kyauk Seik but had received no response at the time of reporting.

Ponnagyun Township parliamentarian Khin Maung Latt said that many Kyauk Seik villagers had fled to other communities in the area since the attack.

“Half of the population of the village fled because they were so scared. Some villagers fled to other nearby villages but some villagers fled across the [Kaladan] river by boat,” Khin Maung Latt told NMG.

The newly displaced people will likely face difficulties in getting food rations and could face additional risks related the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the parliamentarian added.

“The government needs to hold peace talks and discuss stopping the war. The government has full responsibility. The government has also full responsibility to take care of its people,” parliamentarian Khin Maung Latt said. “This ruling government came into power with a motto of peace. To implement their electoral promise, they need to implement a ceasefire and a peace process.”

The Burma Army and the Arakan Army engaged in clashes near Nang Chaungwa village in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township, and in an air strike by government forces on April 8, some seven villagers were killed and eight injured.

Clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army have continued in Paletwa Township and several townships in Rakhine State.

Several ethnic armed organizations and civil society groups have called on the Burma Army to declare a unilateral ceasefire in order to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Burma Army has rejected the calls.