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Military ‘burns down’ Rakhine village in Western Myanmar: Residents

DIGEST-ENG-05-09-2020-Myanmar

Myanmar’s military set a village on fire in Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township and killed two civilians on Thursday evening, said residents.

Troops shelled Phayapaung Village on the Yangon-Sittwe road at around 8 pm on Thursday before torching houses and killing two villagers, according to relatives of the victims.

“My son was returning from work in Kyauktaw by bike at around 5 pm when he encountered Tatmadaw [military] troops. They told him to lead them. An explosion occurred near the village and the troops attacked,” said U Nyo Maung Hla, father of 27-year-old victim Ko Maung Nyunt Win.

Then military trucks from the Kyauktaw direction surrounded the village. Villagers were told to leave their homes as soldiers looted their belongings before setting their houses ablaze, said U Nyo Maung Hla.

“After a round of shots, they stopped for a while. Then trucks came and we were told to leave our homes. We saw soldiers taking our belongings and putting them on the trucks. As I went closer, they fired a warning shot at me. We were forced out of our houses which were then burned,” he told The Irrawaddy.

There are nearly 400 houses in the village and over 200 were reduced to ash, said villager U San Tun Hla.

“I think over 200 houses were burned down. We still can’t make a list. Many villagers have fled. Some houses were not burned because villagers put out the fire just after the soldiers left their houses. Soldiers said they would shoot if we tried to put out the fires. [Soldiers] returned to restart fires if the houses didn’t catch fire,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Another victim, Ko Khin Maung Thein, 32, was arrested by troops while he was hiding in his house.

Myanmar’s military spokesman, Major General Zaw Min Tun, denied the accusations, saying troops were attacked with a roadside bomb near the village. Two bodies and a gun were seized in the incident.

“The AA [Arakan Army] attacked a police vehicle between Kyauktaw to Apaukwa with a remotely detonated bomb at around 6.30 pm. It took place on the road some 400 meters south of Kyauktaw. Two police officers were injured. [The vehicle] was attacked again at the same place on its return after transporting the police. We found two enemy bodies and a gun in the incident,” the spokesman told a press conference in Naypyitaw on Thursday.

The two villagers were found dead with gunshot wounds on Friday morning by the river near the village and they have been sent to Kyauktaw for a postmortem.

The government in Naypyitaw has issued a stay-at-home order in Rakhine State but northern Rakhine residents have been forced to flee their homes due to ongoing clashes between Myanmar’s military and the AA.