Myanmar security forces have killed nearly 70 “insurgents” and detained more than 230 others in violence that has occurred in Rakhine state’s Maungdaw township since deadly attacks on border guard stations and subsequent clashes with armed groups last month, the country’s armed forces said on Monday.
Rohingya “terrorists” set fire to six villages and ran away, though residents have blamed soldiers for the arson, the military’s announcement said.
Local residents and rights activists have accused the armed forces of killing civilians, raping women, and burning down homes in the areas under security lockdown, where the majority of residents are Rohingya. Though the army has denied the allegations, it has not permitted independent observers or journalists to enter the area.
Nearly 230 houses and other buildings have been burned since the Oct. 9 attacks, and nine clashes between military units and attackers have occurred with nine instances of soldiers opening fire on attackers and three instances of attackers bombing military vehicles, the army said.
During the attacks, seven army soldiers, including a military unit commander, were killed, and five were injured, the announcement said. Ten policemen also died in the attacks, and six were injured.
Security forces transferred the 234 people it arrested to the Myanmar Police Force which released 23 after it was determined that they had not been involved in any of the attacks.
During the weekend, Myanmar soldiers killed roughly 30 villagers they say attacked them with machetes and wooden clubs in an upsurge in violence in the area.
About 200 Rohingya—mostly women and children—have fled the violence and are stranded at the Bangladesh border, where Bangladeshi guards have refused to let them pass, Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday, citing community leaders. A border guard spokesman, however, put the figure at closer to 80, the report said.
Rakhine commission visit
The recent upsurge in violence has prompted the Myanmar government’s Rakhine Advisory Commission to meet with representatives from the state government and ethnic Rakhine and Muslims communities on Monday in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe.
Saw Khin Tint, a commission member, said the panel wants to visit Maungdaw township to survey the security situation.
“We have plans to visit Maungdaw, but we can’t make the trip because of security reasons,” the chairwoman of the Rakhine Literature and Culture Association in Yangon and vice chairwoman of the Rakhine Women’s Association said.
“We will visit Rakhine villages and refugee camps and Bengali villages and refugee camps tomorrow and will listen to what the people have to say,” she said, using a derogatory term for Rohingya that is used by Myanmar’s Buddhists, who view the Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The Myanmar government formed the nine-member commission, led by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, on Aug. 24 to work on conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, and development issues in the impoverished and restive western state.
Diplomats from the United Nations, United States, and other countries visited Maungdaw earlier this month and got the government to agree to allow humanitarian aid workers into the area.
The latest spate of attacks has been the bloodiest since 2012 when more than 200 people died during communal violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, and tens of thousands of Rohingya were forced into squalid internally displaced persons camps where they are denied basic rights, including that of citizenship.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.