.Authorities in Myanmar’s violence-wracked Maungdaw township have determined that materials found by a group of girls near a deserted Muslim village were intended for making explosive devices, a local official said on Wednesday.
The materials, including auto pistons and nearly 100 iron pipes, were discovered on Tuesday near Maungdaw’s Kyaut Pandu village in northern Rakhine state, though no gunpowder was found, said village administrator Maung Than Wai.
The Rohingya Muslim village has stood empty since its residents fled a brutal military crackdown in response to deadly attacks on police outposts by the Muslim militant group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Aug. 25, he said.
“Some girls found these materials while they were searching for vegetables outside the village,” Maung Than Wai said. “They found a suspicious hole in the ground first, then they dug it out and found those materials.”
In a similar incident in late November, an eight-year-old child found an improvised explosive device (IED) near a gutted area in Maungdaw’s Myoma Kanyintan ward, The Myanmar Times reported, citing local police. The device was attached to two wires and packed in blue cellphone.
When police searched the area where the IED was found, they discovered a second homemade mine, the report said.
The government’s Information Committee said soldiers from the Myanmar army found a manmade cave on Nov. 13 near Kyaut Pandu village which they believed had housed terrorists.
More than 620,000 Rohingya fled Maungdaw and nearby Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships during the military campaign to escape killings, arson, torture, and rape, with most heading across the border to neighboring Bangladesh.
Thousands of ethnic Rakhine, Hindus, Mro, and other ethnic minority groups also fled the area, fearing attacks by the Muslim militants who exploded improvised bombs, set fire to villages, and launched additional attacks on police outposts in Maungdaw after the Aug. 25 ambush.
The Myanmar government and Hindus have said that Muslim militants carried out attacks on Hindu villages, killing inhabitants and dumping their bodies in mass graves. The militants also forced young Hindu women to convert to Islam and took them to a Muslim refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Kyaw Thein Aye, Rakhine state’s finance minister, said in November that a hotel zone would be built in Kyaut Pandu village and a tourism site would be created in another village as part of a greater effort to rebuild the devastated region.
The Myanmar government’s newly created Union Enterprises for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Development (UEHRD) has urged local and foreign businessmen to invest in developing Rakhine state while it arranges for refugees to return to the area. The UEHRD is building homes for the first group of Hindu refugees in Maungdaw’s Ohtein village.
In the meantime, hundreds of Hindu refugees who fled to Rakhine’s state capital Sittwe amid the ethnic violence have started returning to Maungdaw where some are staying temporarily in a building near the district administration office because their homes were burned during the violence.
Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a bilateral agreement on Nov. 23 that calls for the voluntary repatriation of some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who escaped to Bangladesh as they fled outbreaks of violence and two brutal military crackdowns in Rakhine state since October 2016.
The agreement does not cover another roughly 300,000 refugees who fled earlier cycles of violence.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.