Myanmar junta forces kill 15 villagers after clashes with Rakhine State insurgents

Aerial bombings and gunfire on three villages destroyed homes and cars, and critically wounded many.
By RFA Burmese
2024.05.15
Myanmar junta forces kill 15 villagers after clashes with Rakhine State insurgents Junta airstrikes destroyed a hospital in Rakhine state’s Kyauktaw township on May 14, 2024.
Arakan Army Information Desk

Myanmar junta forces battling ethnic minority insurgents in three townships in the west have killed 15 people in strikes on villages, residents told Radio Free Asia Wednesday.

The junta artillery fire and airstrikes on Tuesday also wounded 16 people in Rakhine State’s Thandwe, Kyauktaw and Maungdaw townships, they said.  Junta troops frequently retaliate against civilians across Rakhine State following offensives by the Arakan Army ethnic minority insurgent group, witnesses  say.

Residents told Radio Free Asia that 12 people were killed in an attack and another person was critically wounded when troops shelled Thandwe township’s Lin Thi village on Tuesday evening. Seven people were killed in the artillery strikes while five died in the hospital, according to Lin Thi residents.

Three people were killed in junta airstrikes further to the north on Tuesday, near the border with Bangladesh, residents there said.

RFA telephoned Rakhine State’s junta spokesperson, Hla Thein, but he did not respond. The military junta and the Arakan Army have been fighting in Rakhine State since a year-long ceasefire ended in November.

More than 200 civilians have been killed and nearly 600 have been wounded by air raids, land mines and small and heavy weapons in the six months since November, according to data compiled by RFA from accounts from residents and the Arakan Army.

The junta-controlled Myanma Alinn Daily newspaper reported on Monday that 60 civilians had been killed and 113 wounded by artillery fired into villages by the Arakan Army.

A witness who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals told RFA that junta forces fired heavy weapons from a junta camp strategically positioned on a hill on Tuesday.

“When fighting erupted with the Arakan Army, junta troops in the Bardan Hill camp shelled the village,” he said. “A family of five died in the first round, two more were killed in the second and the rest of the injured were brought to the hospital by boat. Three more died in the hospital last night and two died this morning.”

Most villagers fled to safety, but shelling could still be heard on Wednesday morning, he added.

Ngapali beach, a tourist town in Thandwe, has faced increasing economic difficulties as the conflict has escalated in the region, scaring off visitors.

Junta targeting hospital and school

To Thandwe's north, Arakan Army troops captured Kyauktaw township’s regional junta headquarters in February. The military has responded with targeted attacks on civilians, residents say. The junta’s air force bombed a hospital and school on Tuesday in Wea Gyi Daunt village, injuring as many as 20 patients and healthcare workers. 

A villager who declined to be identified for security reasons told RFA that unlike in Thandwe, where fighting instigated the attack, three bombs were dropped apparently for no reason, hitting only civilians.

“They dropped a bomb last night. The hospital was also destroyed. Two health workers were injured initially, then seven more were injured,” he said. 

The Arakan Army reported that as many as 20 patients and healthcare workers were wounded, five of them critically. Some victims had died from their wounds, the insurgents said, but did not say how many.

Junta troops also bombed the Kyauktaw-based Infantry Battalion 374 base, which the Arakan Army recently captured, residents said.

Junta airtrikes further north, near Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh, killed three civilians and wounded six in Kin Chaung village in Maungdaw township, residents said. One man who witnessed the attack said two jets bombed the area even though there had been no clashes.

“Two elderly women and a man died. Six people were injured. Six or seven cars were destroyed,” said the man, who declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information. “A religious building in a monastery compound collapsed and two houses burned down.”

Rakhine State is one of several Mynamar regions where fighters trying to end military rule have made advances recently against the junta that seized power from an elected government in early 2021.

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

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