About 30 Rohingya killed in clashes between Myanmar junta, insurgents

Thousands are fleeing a township after the Arakan Army ordered them to leave.
By RFA Burmese
2024.05.18
About 30 Rohingya killed in clashes between Myanmar junta, insurgents The entrance to Buthidaung town in Rakhine state as seen in an undated file photo.
Photo: RFA

About 30 members of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority have been killed in clashes between junta forces and ethnic minority Buddhist insurgents, residents of Rakhine State said on Saturday, raising new fears that the persecuted Muslim community is being caught in the middle of increasingly bitter fighting.

Twelve Rohingya civilians were killed in junta airstrikes targeting fighters from the Arakan Army, or AA, in Buthidaung township on Friday.  Later in the day, the Arakan Army bombed  a school where Rohingyas were sheltering with drones, killing 18 of them, residents said.

About 200 people were wounded, a Buthidaung Rohingya resident who identified himself as Khin Zaw Moe told RFA.

“People are scared. The casualties may be even higher,” he said. “The exact number is not known due to the difficulty in communicating.”

Rohingyas from about 20 villages were sheltering in the high school when it was attacked, he said. It was not clear why the Arakan Army bombed the school.

RFA tried to telephone the AA spokesman, Khaing Thukha, and the junta’s Rakhine State spokesperson, Hla Thein, but could not get through to either of them. 

The AA, who are battling the junta for self-determination of the Buddhist ethnic Arakan community in the state, said in a statement on Saturday its forces had captured all junta bases in Buthidaung. It did not mention Rohingya civilians.

Rohingya, who have been persecuted for decades in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, are getting caught up in the war between the AA and junta forces, human rights workers  say.

Both sides have pressed Rohingya into their ranks and at the same time have accused Rohingya of helping their rivals. Both the AA and junta forces subjected members of the Muslim minority to violence, residents and rights workers say.

Another Rohingya resident of Buthidaung said the AA burned down homes in eight neighborhoods of the town although he didn’t know how many of the homes had been destroyed.

Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin told RFA that tens of thousands of Rohingyas had fled from their homes after the AA ordered them to leave the town by 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Another township resident told RFA on Saturday that AA fighters had rounded up thousands of Rohingya near Buthidaung prison. 

RFA was unable to confirm any of the accounts because telephone lines and internet links were down.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled from a Myanmar military crackdown in 2017, in response to a series of attacks on the security forces by Rohingya insurgents. Most of those refugees are sheltering in camps in southeast Bangladesh, where they joined hundreds of thousands who fled earlier abuses.

More than half a million Rohingya remain in Rakhine State, many of them in camps for the internally displaced. Rohingya activists estimate the Rohingya population of Buthidaung to be around 200,000. 

Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang

Note: This story was earlier published with a photo of a separate incident in Chin state. We have updated this report with a file photo.

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