Rakhine State Civilians Killed and Injured in Intensified Tatmadaw Offensive Against AA

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Intensifying clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung and Minbya townships are causing civilian casualties and displacement, according to local sources.

Fighting in the area reportedly grew worse after the AA announced that they had recaptured their military camp from the Burma Army in Rathedaung on Monday.

Locals said that shells hit a village in Rathedaung and injured four people including a 90-year-old man and a 13-year-old child after the Burma Army fired artillery indiscriminately into the area.

“I think the AA attacked the Tatmadaw’s navy. Then the navy responded by shooting into different directions, so shells landed in the village. Many houses were damaged. Villagers were hiding in bunkers,” a Rathedaung Township local told NMG on the condition of anonymity.

The individual added that the injured people were from Kan Pyin, Pyin Won and Htee Swel villages.

Weaponry could still be heard being fired in the area until the evening of October 6.

“Two navy ships opened fire around at 1:00 p.m. They fired heavy weapon. I didn’t know whether the AA shot at them. This morning, navy ships fired many rounds of artillery,” the local source said on Tuesday. “Jet fighters attacked the AA on October 3 and October 5. The Rathedaung-based LIBs [Light Infantry Battalions] 536, 537 and 538 also fired many rounds of heavy weapons.”

The Burma Army captured an AA camp near Htee Swel village on October 4, but the AA reclaimed it at around 10:15 p.m. on October 5.

Military offensives then intensified against the AA, and included air strikes.

“The Burma Army has attacked the AA camp near Aung Thasi and Htee Swel villages for more than three months,” a villager from Htee Swel said. “Many Burmese soldiers were killed in the clash [when the AA recaptured the camp]. After that, navy ships came to attack the AA. In the past, there were only two navy ships attacking the AA. Now four to five navy ships are attacking the AA. The villagers know this.”

Rathedaung Township parliamentarian Khin Saw Wai confirmed that there were civilian casualties in the fighting, and that 1,000 people had fled their homes in Rathedaung.

Hla Thein Aung, an MP for Minbya Township, confirmed that three men were killed in Minbya Township on October 5.

“Three Muslim men were shot dead by the Burma Army. These men were traveling by motorboat at night. Then the soldiers shot at them,” Hla Thein Aung told NMG.

The Tatmadaw’s information team described the men as “Bengalis,” a term frequently used in a derogatory manner to describe ethnic Rohingya Muslims in the area.

“Soldiers tried to stop two motorboats when the boats entered a restricted area. Then the front boat tried to escape, so soldiers shot at them. After that, soldiers investigated the two boats and found two knives, two engines, and three mobile phones. [The men] died of small weapon injuries. Soldiers captured the bodies of three Bengali men,” the military’s information team reported on October 6.

The Arakan National Party and local civil society organizations have demanded that Burma’s President, State Counsellor, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and respective authorities take action against perpetrators of violence against civilians in Rakhine State.