Dozens dead following junta’s mass arrests in Myanmar: ethnic army

Villagers reported corpses piled high in a ‘killing field.’
By RFA Burmese
2024.06.03
Dozens dead following junta’s mass arrests in Myanmar: ethnic army An aerial view of Rakhine State’s capital of Sittwe on Oct 16, 2017
RFA

Myanmar junta forces killed more than 50 civilians in a raid on a village last week in Rakhine State in the west, according to the ethnic minority insurgent force battling regime troops for control of the state.

Troops murdered 48 men and five women between the ages of 15 and 70 in the village of Byain Phyu, near Rakhine State’s capital of Sittwe, the Arakan Army said in a statement on Sunday. The group, one of Myanmar's most powerful guerrilla forces, is fighting for self-determination against junta forces in Rakhine and neighboring Chin State.

The Arakan Army has made significant advances since a ceasefire with  junta forces ended in November, seizing townships in Rakhine and two in northern Chin State. 

Junta troops have been accused of unleashing brutal attacks on civilians, often men  suspected of supporting the rebels. 

About 100 soldiers began their attack on Byain Phyu on Wednesday, abducting villagers and allegedly beating three to death, according to residents. But violence escalated when more soldiers began arriving, said one Byain Phyu resident, who told Radio Free Asia that two of his family members were killed after being arrested.

“My relatives were among those arrested – a lot of people, including my uncle and friends. The trauma is unspeakable. There are five people in my uncle’s family,” he said, declining to be identified out of fear of reprisals. “Just three of the women have returned and two have died. My uncle and my cousin died, so their family, especially my aunt, is really traumatized.”

RFA tried to telephone Rakhine State’s junta spokesperson, Hla Thein, to ask about the incident but he did not answer his phone.

But the junta said in a press release last Wednesday that troops were conducting searches in Byain Phyu after finding bunkers built from sandbags in houses throughout the village. Three men from other villages snatched guns from junta forces and were later killed in a shootout, it said, adding that 25 suspects were being interrogated in connection with the incident.

RFA has not been able to independently confirm the death toll.

The Arakan Army said in its statement that junta troops abused women, torched and looted houses and still held thousands of villagers.

Increased junta retaliation

Another resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons told RFA that the troops have remained in the village. 

“It is a very worrying situation. We haven’t seen our family and the men. We’ve heard that the victims were tortured and shot dead,” he said. “The killing field was set in front of Ko Ko Maung’s tea shop and corpses were piled there.”

Villagers said the attack  was carried out by regional junta forces supported by members of a small militia force called the Arakan Liberation Party and some ethnic Rohingya troops, who rights groups say are forcibly recruited from refugee camps to fight for the junta. 

The Arakan Liberation Party denied involvement in the attack.

Further Arrests

As the Arakan Army moves closer to Sittwe, junta soldiers have become increasingly suspicious of anyone suspected of sympathizing with their cause.

Junta troops arrested members of the Arakan National Party, which represents the political views of members of the ethnic Rakhine or Arakanese community in Rakhine State, in Yangon on Friday. 

Soldiers arrested the group's former youth leader, Khin Win Maung, and three other young men at their homes at around 8 p.m., sources close to the family told RFA, who could not confirm where they were being held.

Arakan National Party spokesperson Thar Tun Hla told RFA that they were investigating the circumstances of Khin Win Maung’s arrest.

“We are currently still studying why he was arrested and we can say that Khin Win Maung is a former youth leader,” he said.

arrest (1).jpeg
Khin Win Maung, an Arakan National Party former youth leader, on Sept. 1, 2019. (Arakan National Party)

Khin Win Maung has been teaching political science, but had not participated in any political activity since Myanmar’s 2021 coup, said a source close to the family. He volunteered to help those displaced by fighting and natural disasters in Rakhine State, they added. 

The names and details of the other three arrested men have not been released.

RFA called Yangon region’s junta spokesperson Htay Aung for information on the arrests but calls went unanswered.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 

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