Heavy artillery fire during airstrikes on Monday killed two civilians and injured four others in a village in western Myanmar’s Chin state, where government forces are fighting the rebel Arakan Army, a resident and a military spokesman said.
The strikes occurred around 5:30 p.m. in Pwe Wone village in Paletwa township, where the hostilities have spilled over from adjacent northern Rakhine state, said the resident who declined to give his name out of fear for his safety.
“Two were killed and four were injured,” he said. “I don’t know how they died exactly, but we do know it was from gunfire from planes that targeted the village. It was not during a battle. The aircraft intentionally fired into the village.”
Pwe Wone village comprises about 40 households, and most residents are hill farmers, he added.
The blasts from fired shells also damaged 15 homes, a school, and a Buddhist monastery, the villager said.
Government forces and the AA have been engaged in combat near the village for the past 20 days, he said.
AA spokesman Khine Thukha denied that Arakan forces were to blame for the killings.
“On March 19, there was armed fighting around a strategic hill near Mee Chaung bridge in Paletwa township,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“The AA has been battling the military’s incoming reinforcement troops during skirmishes on the hill,” he said. “The military has deployed three helicopters and two fighter jets to fire at targets.”
Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier Gen Zaw Min Tun emphasized the necessity for using heavy weapons in the army's counter-insurgency campaign against the AA.
“We are executing an effective counter-insurgency operation, and only when we use efficient weapons and strength will it be an effective operation,” he said.
“There are no restrictions saying that certain means of attack should not be used for counter-insurgency operations,” he said. “If there are no battles near the villages, no civilians will be killed. If there are, then some civilians will be killed.”
“You know who has started the fighting near the villages where many civilians have been killed,” he said, implying that it was the AA.
Villagers injured in Minbya
A resident of Phapyo village in Rakhine state’s Minbya township, meanwhile, said that heavy shelling from the armed conflict injured five civilians on March 9.
“Shells fell into the village and affected the whole community,” said the villager who declined to give his name out of fear for his safety. “The blasts burned down 10 houses. Five people were injured. Nobody’s left in the village. All the other houses were also damaged by the shelling blasts.”
Another villager, who also refused to state his name for the same reason, blamed the shellfire on Myanmar soldiers.
“Whenever there are armed conflicts, we only see the military firing artillery,” he said. “The military has always said that its soldiers fire into villages because someone in the village fired at them first. But shells land in villages whenever there are armed conflicts.”
Khin Saw Wai, a lawmaker from Rakhine’s Rathedaung township, said the government should investigate attacks on civilians.
“We need to identify who is responsible for the killing and injuring of civilians,” he told RFA. “In doing so, the ruling government should give a credible organization the authority to investigate such issues. Only then will the truth be revealed.”
Reported by Phyu Phyu Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.