At Least Four Civilians Killed as Minbya Clashes Intensify

Friday, April 24, 2020

At least four civilians died in clashes between the Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State’s Minbya Township on Wednesday.

A local told NMG on the condition of anonymity that two men from Minbya town were shot dead while driving a motorbike through the area, and that two Rohingya villagers were killed in an artillery shell explosion.

“Another man was U San Kyaw, who lived in Naram village. A shell landed near U San Kyaw while he was tending his buffalo. His legs were cut off. He died when he arrived at Minbya hospital,” the local explained.

Hla Thein Aung, Minbya Township’s parliamentarian in the Rakhine State parliament, confirmed the locally reported deaths, but said he had not yet received updated information on the total number of people injured in the fighting that day, which was largely attributed to shelling on the afternoon of April 23.

“We heard artillery fire around 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. They opened fire using artillery near Ramaung Bridge in Minbya Township. I did not hear the sound of small arms. I heard the sound of artillery fire,” MP Hla Thein Aung told NMG. “People fled their homes when shells landed in villages. They have sought refuge in Minbya town—I think hundreds of people have arrived in Minbya,” he added.

NMG tried to call both the Tatmadaw and the AA for comment on the fighting in Minbya, but no one responded to requests for comment.

The Office of the Commander-in-Chief reported on April 22—the day before the shelling of Minbya—that the Burma Army had taken into custody the bodies of “two AA terrorists” who, they added, “would have planted landmines.” The report said that, along with the bodies, the military seized three fuses and a handmade bamboo trigger which was allegedly for landmine use.

The commander-in-chief’s office also reported that another person linked with the AA had been killed in fighting in Minbya Township on April 21.

Civilian sources have frequently identified those who have died in the fighting as villagers, while military sources typically describe any casualties as being affiliated with the AA, which the government identified as a “terrorist organization” in late March. Armed conflict has since escalated in northern Rakhine State, with air strikes, shellings, or clashes occurring on a near daily basis.

“We are worried about more civilians being killed, villages burning down and people fleeing their villages because of clashes,” Minbya MP Hla Thein Aung told NMG. “We are also worried about civilian deaths in downtown areas. Not only people living in remote areas, but also people living in town areas are afraid. The situation is getting worse. Nobody takes responsibility. People are living in fear.”

A driver of a vehicle belonging to the World Health Organization was shot and killed near Ramaung Bridge in Minbya Township on Monday, April 20. Twenty-eight-year old Pyae Sone Win Maung was transporting COVID-19 test swabs for the Ministry of Health and Sports. The UN Secretary General António Guterres has called for an independent investigation into his death.