Five villagers were injured in fighting between ethnic Arakan Army soldiers and government troops in Rakhine state on Thursday, with a military spokesperson later saying government forces had detained 25 villagers for suspected links to the AA.
The fighting near Yward Haung Daw village in Mrauk-U township flared up at around 4:00 p.m., local sources said. Each side meanwhile denied responsibility for the shooting.
Speaking to RFA on Friday, Myanmar military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said that Arakan Army soldiers had attacked a military convoy with explosives on Thursday.
“Our troops fired back in response, but we fired in the opposite direction from the village,” he said, adding that government soldiers were not to blame for injuries sustained by villagers during the battle.
Khine Thukha, a spokesperson for the Arakan Army, meanwhile said that AA soldiers had not engaged with government troops at all on Thursday.
“There was no fighting with us in the area yesterday. As far as we have learned from the villagers, the Myanmar military intentionally fired into the village. It’s possible that they just created a fake battle, as they have done before,” he said.
'We had to hide'
Also speaking to RFA, a Buddhist monk at Mrauk-U’s Myo Oo Gaung monastery, said that government troops had begun shooting after claiming they heard gunfire nearby.
“A couple of military vehicles from the Myanmar army came our way,” he said. “A soldier jumped off near the shop where we were sitting and told others that he had heard gunfire, and the soldiers began shooting toward where they said the gunfire was heard. We had to hide nearby for our safety.”
“The shooting lasted about 20 minutes, and I don’t know if it was actually a fight between two sides,” he said.
Among those wounded in the shooting was a nine-year-old boy who was taken with the others to the Mrauk-U township hospital, sources said. None had injuries that were described as life-threatening.
Twenty-five villagers aged between 20 and 30 were detained by government troops outside Mrauk-U’s Kyauk Saebyin village on Thursday evening, Zaw Min Tun said, adding that none had come from villages in the area.
“Based on our initial questioning, they are most likely members of the AA, and legal proceedings against them are now under way,” he said.
Meanwhile, villagers and other sources said that ongoing fighting in Rakhine is causing hardship to the local population, with fields going untilled and many residents fleeing their homes for fear of being killed or injured in the clashes.
“The people of Rakhine are being displaced, and are now living in fear because of the fighting,” Maung Sein Hla, a Mrauk-U township resident said, adding that he has now taken in a family frightened away by fighting in a nearby village.
“They are taking shelter with me because they are too scared to live in their own home,” he said. “Now the rainy season has started, and they are missing all their regular work on the farm.”
Reinforcements for government forces are meanwhile arriving in the area every day, Buddhist monk Ashin Thabarwa Nadi said.
“Today, as I returned from the Aung Myat Lay village refugee camp to the Pauktawbyin refugee camp, I saw military troops camping in every village along the way. Some troops are even stationed in the monasteries.”
“They are occupying religious buildings, which I think must be a violation of international agreements with regard to wartime. I think that the Burmese military is doing this on purpose to hurt the Rakhine people,” he said.
Reported by Thet Su Aung and Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Nandar Chann. Written in English by Richard Finney.