More than 1,000 civilians displaced by clashes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state slipped away from a Buddhist monastery giving them shelter on Tuesday before government soldiers could enter the compound to search for hidden rebel troops, sources said today.
The soldiers entered the camp at the Pauktawbyin monstery on Tuesday afternoon after being refused entry for more than a day by monks who feared that the presence of uniformed troops inside the compound would cause the refugees to panic, senior monk Ashin Thabarwa Nadi told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“They came in at around 1:00 p.m. together with police and immigration authorities in uniforms, and they went around taking photos,” Ashin Thabarwa Nadi said, adding that he had been instructed by senior monks from the Ponnagyun township Buddhist Monks Council to let the soldiers in.
"For myself, I am uncomfortable that uniformed soldiers carrying guns have come into the monastery,” the monk who leads the monastery said.
“Troops are still standing guard in front of the monastery now,” he said.
Though over 1,000 refugees from 200 families who were sheltering at the monastery were able to leave the compound yesterday and on Tuesday morning before the soldiers came in, another 1,000 or so were left behind, the monk said.
“They are in low spirits now, and have not been able to sleep all night,” he said.
Also speaking to RFA, military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said that Myanmar troops had waited for permission before coming in to search for members of ethnic armies they believed were hiding there.
“We didn’t force our way in, and we carried out some checks once we got approval for entry,” he said.
Myanmar’s National Human Rights Commission has meanwhile submitted a report to the Office of the President of its findings on the deaths of civilians during military operations in Kyauktan village in Rakhine’s Rathedaung state, commission member Yu Lwin Aung said on Tuesday.
The May 2 incident in Kyauktan left six people dead and eight wounded, one of whom died on May 14.
They were among 275 people rounded up and held in army custody in a school compound for interrogation about possible connections to the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic armed group fighting national forces for greater autonomy in Rakhine state.
Soldiers and eyewitnesses presented different accounts of what happened in the school compound, with the military saying its troops first fired warning shots into the air to disperse the detainees as they staged an attack during which they tried to grab soldiers’ guns, but then had to fire into the crowd as a last resort.
However, eyewitnesses told RFA that the soldiers had opened fire on the sleeping detainees after a mentally ill man held with them began shouting and ran off.
No word was immediately available as to whether the findings of the commission's report will be released to the public.
Since December 2018, more than 50 civilians have been killed, with over 100 injured and more than 40,000 displaced, because of clashes between government forces and the Arakan Army.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun and Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.