Fighting in Myanmar’s war-ravaged Rakhine state over the weekend resulted in casualties for both Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA) rebels, their spokesmen told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Tuesday.
The military claims to have killed nine rebels, while the rebels say they killed three dozen in fighting centered on Mrauk-U and several other townships and villages over the past few days, they said.
An official announcement from the AA said they captured nine bodies clothed in sport shirts and pants, equipped with guns and ammunition.
AA Spokesperson Khine Thukha told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the casualties on the rebel side were lower than what the military had announced.
“Two AA soldiers were killed. Some [others] sustained only minor injuries. If we combine casualties from all the incidents in [the three townships], there were at least 35 killed on the other side,” said the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Colonel Win Zaw Oo, spokesman for the military’s Western Command, confirmed that there was fighting, but did not agree with the AA’s account.
“I don’t want to make any comments on their announcements. There were battles on the nights of October 20 and 21 near Letka village. We captured some bodies and guns and some of our soldiers were injured. Aside from that, it is not true that they captured our guns and other weapons,” said the colonel.
Villagers from Letka said the entire village fled from their homes due to the fighting.
“The military troops have been stationed in Letka village. They are firing heavy shells from the village,” said a female resident of Letka who requested anonymity for security reasons.
“Nobody has returned home over the past week. [They’ve] been in our village for four or five days,” she said.
The resident stressed the importance of returning home, saying that the harvest season is near.
“We want to go back and check if our houses are still standing. Our farms also need to be harvested, but we’re too scared to go back now,” she said.
Mrauk-U Township MP Tun Thar Sein said innocent people have been caught in the middle of fighting between the government and rebel armies.
“The only way that the villagers would be able to go back home and return to farming is if both sides agree to a ceasefire,” the MP said.
Fighting near the village claimed the lives of children this weekend. Villagers said that two children, a 13-year-old high school student and a three-year-old child lost their lives when they drowned as they fled Waitharli village during the fighting on Saturday.
In addition, several villagers, including children, were injured in the shelling of Rathedaung, Buthidaung, and Minbya townships.
Fighting between Myanmar and AA forces has raged in northern Rakhine state since late 2018, causing about 90 civilian deaths displacing tens of thousands of residents.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.