Myanmar’s National Human Rights Commission has backed the country’s army in its account of the deaths of civilians during military operations in Kyauktan village in Rakhine’s Rathedaung state, commission member Yu Lwin Aung said on Thursday.
The May 2, 2019 incident in Kyauktan left six people dead and eight wounded, one of whom died of his injuries on May 14.
They were among 275 people rounded up and held in army custody in a school compound for interrogation about possible connections to the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic armed group fighting national forces for greater autonomy in Rakhine state.
When some of those held under guard tried to run away, soldiers fired warning shots into the air, Commission member Yu Lwin Aung told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Thursday, citing the findings of a report submitted to government authorities this week by the Commission.
“Then, a mentally unstable detainee began shouting, and everyone began running. And when some of the detainees began to run directly at their guards, the soldiers fired warning shots into the air,” he said.
“When the detainees continued to run toward the soldiers, the soldiers fired directly at them, and that’s why six of them died,” he said.
Local officials and survivors of the shooting disputed the Commission’s findings, though, with one survivor, Kyauktan villager Khine Kyaw, saying soldiers had not fired warning shots and that detainees had not charged at their guards.
“The people were not running toward their guards,” he said. “They were huddled together in the middle of the compound, and they died as they were fired on from both sides,”
Unhappy with findings
Also speaking to RFA, member of parliament in Rakhine for the Arakan National Party Khin Saw Wai said that local citizens have been left unhappy by the findings of the Commission’s report, adding that many had been hoping for a “clear conclusion of right or wrong” in the case.
“For example, if the security forces had acted unlawfully, we would like to see the Defense Ministry take action against those who were responsible,” Khin Saw Wai said.
“In their report, the Commission only urges the armed forces to avoid similar incidents in the future, so this does not meet the expectations of the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pe Than, member of parliament for Rakhine’s Myebon township, said he believes the Commission announced its findings to the media because it was unsure how far it could go in criticizing Myanmar’s powerful military.
“In the end, it seemed to me that they weren’t sure how to give the media a clear explanation of its findings,” he said.
Although Myanmar has been led since 2016 by a civilian government under de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the constitution gives the military, which ruled the country for five decades after 1962, an automatic 25 percent of seats in parliament and control of three defense and security ministries.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun, Ye Tike, and Tin Aung Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Richard Finney.