Myanmar Army Denies Burning Fishing Village Near Site of Rebel Attack on Naval Boats

2019-07-23
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Arakan Army soldiers pass through a wooded area in western Myanmar's Rakhine state in an undated photo.
Arakan Army soldiers pass through a wooded area in western Myanmar's Rakhine state in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Arakan Army News and Information

Residents of a village in western Myanmar’s war-ravaged Rakhine state on Tuesday accused government soldiers of torching fishermen’s huts near the place where the rebel Arakan Army attacked two naval vessels earlier this month, though national forces denied the allegation.

Kyaukmaw Paik Seik village in Myebon township, comprised of about 10 fishermen’s houses and a monastery, was the site of the rocket attack on July 19 that killed an army captain and two naval personnel based in southern Rakhine’s Kyaukphyu township.

Villagers fled the community following the incident, fearing a local outbreak of hostilities between the two warring sides that have already spread throughout the northern part of the state.

But area residents reported that eight of their homes were burned down Tuesday morning.

Pe Than, a lower house lawmaker from the hard-line Buddhist Arakan National Party who represents Rakhine’s Myebon township, said he could not say for sure who burned the houses, though military troops were in the area.

“Around 8 a.m., the houses were burning,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. I don’t know who burned them. People are talking about who could have burned them.”

“There is a military regiment present in the village,” he said. “That’s all I know. I don’t know if the battle caused the fire. It is hard to say what caused the fire.”

AA spokesman Khine Thukha said Myanmar soldiers torched the houses, committing a war crime.

Area residents said they took photos and recorded videos from a distance as soldiers set fire to the structures, but they told RFA that they could not post them online because of a month-long government-ordered internet blackout in parts of Rakhine and neighboring Chin states where fighting has occurred.

Brigadier General Win Zaw Oo, spokesman for the military’s Western Regional Command responsible for Rakhine state, said Myanmar troops did not destroy homes in the fishing village.

“We didn’t burn these houses,” he told RFA. “There was a clearance operation in that area. We don’t know who burned these houses. Our troops didn’t burn anything.”

Scraping by

Residents of nearby Pauktu Taung village said about 70 Myanmar troops arrived near their village on July 20, a day after the attack on the navy vessels.

About 1,500 villagers then fled from Pauktu Taung to Kanhtaunggyi town after the soldiers fired artillery during the night, they said.

“The villagers were terrified and fled as the military fired both light and heavy artillery at random at about 9 p.m.,” said a Pauktu Taung resident who declined to give his name out of fear of possible arrest.

Knowing that government soldiers have arrested and beaten villagers in other communities in northern Rakhine state on suspicion of having connections to the AA, locals from Pauktu Taung feared the same fate and ran away, he said.

Residents from villages in Myebon and Ann townships are now fleeing to nearby villages because they fear that military troops will enter their communities, he said.

Displaced residents from Pauktu Taung village are now living temporarily in Kangyihtaung monastery, said Kyaw Naing from the Rakha Wuntha Foundation, which on limited funds is helping villagers affected by the armed conflict.

“We have to scrape by to feed them,” he said. “We reported the situation to the town and township administrations, but they haven’t done anything to help them. We primarily need assistance for food supplies, medicine, and mosquito nets.”

More than 34,000 civilians have been displaced by clashes between the AA and Myanmar forces since an uptick in fighting in the region in late 2018.

Reported by Aung Theinkha for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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Sai Lin Kan

I do not trust the Burmese Army or the AA. Also, the peoples love spreading rumor and fabricating rumor in Burma. The homes were burned down in the villages where the Burmese Army has temporary camping near the villages were fire broke out in some villages and the Rakhine villagers and the AA accused the Burmese Army for torching homes and responsibility for those fires in the villages.
The fire can be started by accident or torched by some villagers and pointing finger at the Burmese Army. I know about ethnic armed groups’ strategy. The AA was adopted late U Nu the Parliamentary Democracy Party (PDP) military strategy which including planting bombs in crowded locations and burning villages to destabilize in the state and created refugee as well as manufacturing rumors and spreading rumors to scare and hatred against the Army. Today, technology is helping rebel easier to spreading rumors and communication for them. They do not need to send foot soldier (runner) or use village to village for carry message for them.
I believed the main reason of the Burmese Government cutting off the Internet in Rakhine State was stopping false news, rumors and cutting off communication between the AA and its intelligence agents. The AA has received information about the Burmese Army movement and so the AA can attack the Burmese Navy boats and the Army trucks.
The AA assassination of accused informers and the village heads is the terrorist act and warn all Rakhine and other ethnics the AA will kill anyone who cooperates with the Burmese Army and Government.
The AA has done enormous damage to the Rakhine people and the Rakhine State. The peoples were forced to leave their villages because the AA has chosen guerrilla attack to the Army near the village and so the AA guerrilla soldiers can disappear after short fighting and hide among the villagers. The villager has no choice, but to help the AA guerrilla soldiers hide in the village. Otherwise, the village will be punished by the AA.
Also, I do not believe the Burmese Army has arrested and beaten to everyone in the village. The soldier will detain suspected young person and interrogate them that may be included torture method to get information and forced confession about attacking on the Army.
The best interest of the Rakhine state and Rakhine people, the AA must negotiate and sign the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA). The AA will never win with the Burmese Army. The longer the AA fight with the Burmese Army, it will create more hatred against the AA than support and the more lives will lose in the Rakhine State. I have no doubt the AA wants independence Rakhine State. The AA leaders need to accept reality and move on. Fighting will not resolve anything. The AA needs to stop further escalating war and damage to Rakhine State, and Rakhine people.

Jul 25, 2019 03:36 PM

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