Fighting between the military and the ethnic Arakan Army is intensifying in the region.
Military shelling in Myanmar’s Rakhine state over the past four days has claimed the lives of at least two children and injured several others, residents said Monday, as clashes ramp up between junta troops and ethnic insurgents following a two-year lull.
Late on Sunday evening, junta troops from the 9th Military Operations Command (MOC-9) in Kyauktaw township fired shells into Na Ga Yar village, killing 7-year-old Maung Gyi and injuring a man named Kyaw Sein, a resident told RFA Burmese on condition of anonymity.
“A shell fired by the military fell right on the house at about 11 p.m. and went through the roof,” the resident said. “That was the only one that fell on our village, but around 30 shells fell along the banks of the [nearby] Kyauktaw river.”
The boy, who is also known as Moung Ko Naing, was buried on Monday and Kyaw Sein is currently receiving medical treatment, the resident said. Some inhabitants of Na Ga Yar have fled to nearby villages, he added.
Separately, residents told RFA that a seven-year-old from Buthidaung township’s Ah Twin Hnget Thay village was killed and two residents of North Tha Bauk Chaung village were wounded on Sept. 23 when the 8th regiment of the junta’s Buthidaung Township Border Guard Force fired shells toward Tha Bauk Chaung village. Additional details of the incident were not immediately available.
The incident in Na Ga Yar came just four days after a shell fired by MOC-9 injured four members of a family in the same village, sources said.
Residents reported additional civilian casualties resulting from junta attacks since the weekend.
A man staying at the Thein San Guest House in Kyauktaw’s Ywama ward was injured by a stray bullet on Saturday, while a 21-year-old woman and her two children were injured on Monday when a shell fired by a junta naval boat exploded in Minbya township’s Khaung Laung village, sources said.
Of the shelling on Monday, residents said that the clash erupted after members of the ethnic Arakan Army (AA) intercepted two naval vessels traveling upriver from the capital Sittwe to Minbya between Khaung Laung and Laung Shay villages.
“Two Z-craft [boats] came up from Sittwe at about 9 a.m. When they approached our village, [a helicopter] arrived, hovering above. Soon afterwards, we heard the sound of fighting as the vessels approached Khaung Laung village,” said a resident of nearby Thut Pon Chaung village.
“I think the AA fired at the navy. Both vessels were hit. We heard the gunfire. The aircraft also returned fire.”
The Thut Pon Chaung resident said junta troops were firing from the river between Khaung Laung village to Minbya, and a military unit stationed at Kyein Taung Pagoda in Minbya also fired shells into the area.
Pe Than, a former lawmaker and veteran politician in Rakhine state, condemned junta troops for attacking civilians.
“What we have seen is that as the fighting throughout Rakhine state has intensified, the junta is targeting residents, regardless of whether there are any clashes nearby,” he said.
“The military is doing whatever it wants in the villages. More people are becoming displaced by fighting. It’s like the Myanmar proverb ‘burning down the barn because the mouse cannot be found.’”
He urged residents of the state to “keep their eyes and ears open at all times” as the fighting between the two sides is “likely to become even more severe.”
Fighting between Myanmar’s military and the AA, which resumed in July after a two-year lull, has intensified and is spreading southward through Rakhine state, sources in the region told RFA last week.
What began as intermittent clashes two months ago in northern Rakhine’s Maungdaw township and across the border to the northeast in neighboring Chin state’s Paletwa township has since spread to the central Rakhine townships of Buthidaung, Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw, and is now expanding to Toungup township in the state’s south-central region, according to residents.
More than 10,000 residents have fled their homes in townships including Maungdaw, Rathedaung and Mrauk-U in the more than two months since the resumption of fighting.
Neither the AA nor the junta has released any news regarding the situation in Rakhine. Attempts by RFA to reach the junta’s spokesman in the state went unanswered on Monday.
The AA recently announced that it had captured the junta’s 352 Light Infantry Battalion camp on Sept. 10 and its Border Guard Station near milepost No. 40 along Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh on Aug. 31. The AA claimed that “many junta soldiers were killed” and many others were captured, along with weapons and ammunition.
On Sept. 20, Junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun told a press conference in the capital Naypyidaw that the military is trying to recapture the two locations.
Junta shelling has killed three children and three adults and wounded 18 people since fighting resumed in Buthidaung, Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw and Minbya townships.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.