Three civilians, including a five-year-old, were killed and seven others injured by shells fired by Myanmar junta troops into a village in Rakhine state that was miles away from where a clash with rebel Arakan Army (AA) forces had occurred earlier, sources in the country told RFA.
Myat Thu Lin, 5, Hla Aung Thein, 42, and Aye Yin Nu, 65, of Mrauk-U township were killed by the shelling.
Myat Thu Lin's grandfather, Hla Tun Kyaw, told RFA’s Burmese Service that the boy ran away with his mother when they heard explosions and was struck by shrapnel.
“His mother was carrying him as she ran and the shrapnel hit his face entering from his nose and it went through his head,” said Hla Tun Kyaw.
“She was hit on her right arm and thigh. Both mother and son fell to the ground and were unconscious. The child died on the way to the hospital by boat. We are making preparations for his burial. His father is abroad, in Malaysia, and I want him to see the tomb of his son when he returns. The mother is currently in the hospital ready for surgery,” Myat Thu Lin’s grandfather said.
The administrator of their village of Kin Seik, Hla Tha Tun, told RFA that the seven locals who were injured were receiving medical treatment at Mrauk-U hospital.
“Two heavy weapon shells fell in the village at about 5 o'clock last evening. A child and an old woman died on the spot,” he said.
“There was a man who was working as a farmhand in Chaung Thit village. He was wounded by a shell and died at about 8 o'clock last night. There are seven other wounded people in the hospital. I don't want this to happen to innocent people in the future. People are also worried that it might happen again,” Hla Tha Tun said.
Junta soldiers fired heavy weapons on Kin Seik village, forcing residents to flee, even though there had not been any fighting in the area, Hla Tha Tun said.
Villagers told RFA that a clash between junta troops and AA yesterday afternoon took place north of Mrauk-U near Let Kar village on the Sittwe-Yangon road. The junta’s Light Infantry Regiment No. 540, based in Mrauk-U, opened fire with heavy weapons, Hla Tha Tun said.
Kin Seik village, where the shelling occurred, is about eight miles away from where the fighting took place.
A resident who did not want to be named for security reasons told RFA that it was believed that the military was targeting the regional office of the Arakan National League, the political organization associated with the Arakan Army, in Kin Seik village in retaliation for an AA attack on the military.
“They are trying to instill fear in the public. Like giving us a message … ‘This is what we do if you deal with [the AA]. There’s nothing we dare not do.’ They have seized power of the country and so this [attack] meant nothing to them. It’s meant to threaten people,” the resident said.
“What we learned is that the Mrauk-U Township ULA regional office is there, and I think it was a deliberate attack on that office because the shells fell so close to it.”
AA spokesman Khine Thukha said the shelling was a war crime because it targeted innocent people.
"If there is government machinery, there will be administrative offices and judicial courts. Attacking them is unacceptable. It is a crime against innocent people,” Khine Thuka said.
“It’s not a problem if they attack a military camp or something like that or an administrative office which is not near residential areas. It’s OK for armed units shooting at each other. But now they are firing towards that village, which was an inhumane act. They are blatantly committing war crimes,” he said.
He added that the clash, which took place near Let Kah village yesterday, occurred when junta troops entered into AA territory and that it was not a major battle.
After the fighting had ended, Khine Thukha said junta troops fired about 30 rounds of heavy weapons, of which five of the shells exploded in Kin Seik village, between 4:15-5:30 p.m. He said that a monastery in Tammaritz Ward was also hit.
Hla Thein, the junta’s acting spokesperson in Rakhine state, denied knowledge of the attack when contacted by RFA.
'The wrong idea'
The incident was an act by the military to discourage the Rakhine people from supporting the AA, Pe Than, a former member of the Myebon Township People's Hluttaw, said.
“They have the wrong idea. They are thinking that arresting people and shooting them will stop people from supporting AA,” Pe Than said.
“Because of this incorrect thinking, they are hitting the wrong targets. Look at the incident yesterday. They fired at a village that had nothing to do with the battle about 10 miles away. We can all understand that this is done on purpose. [Junta leader] Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has said there’s nothing he dare not do. [Junta spokesman] Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun has also said the same. I think their words are trying to tell us we cannot blame them if something bad happens,” he said.
In Rakhine, the military and the AA fought from December 2018 to November 2020 before entering into a tentative truce. Since then, the AA has tried to establish an administrative system of its own in the state.
A 60-year-old woman was killed on Saturday in northern Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township in another shelling attack over the weekend.
A resident of Min Gyi Village who requested anonymity, said the woman, May Tha Sein, died on the spot when a junta-fired shell landed on her house.
“The shell was fired from Kyein Chaung Creek, northwest of Min Gyi Village. The heavy weapon fell on her house at 9 o'clock,” he said.
RFA has not yet been able to independently confirm the report.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, two unexploded mortars landed in Bandarban, Bangladesh, about one kilometer from the Myanmar border, BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service reported.
Bangladesh’s foreign secretary, Masud Bin Momen, on Monday summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to discuss the incident.
“We have lodged a strong protest … so that such incidents do not take place again. We also strongly condemned the incident,” he told reporters on Monday.
In addition, Border Guard Bangladesh lodged a protest with counterparts in Myanmar over the incident, according to Lt. Col. Foyzur Rahman, BGB director.
“We have come to know that some troubles happened on the Myanmar side of the border. The BGB personnel have been put on alert,” he said.
Ehsanul Haque, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, called the incident “unfriendly.”
“This is a violation of international law if it is done on purpose. But the Myanmar government should apologize to Bangladesh if it is an accident,” he told BenarNews.
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