Junta shelling, airstrikes kill 25 Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

Fighting between the Arakan Army and the Arakan Resistance Solidarity Army has caused 3,000 to flee.
By RFA Burmese
2024.04.15
Junta shelling, airstrikes kill 25 Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state Arakan Army troops are pictured in this undated photo.
Arakan Army Info Desk

At least 25 ethnic Rohingya civilians were killed and thousands forced to flee their homes amid junta airstrikes and heavy artillery over the weekend in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, according to residents.

Fighting between the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army, or AA, and the Arakan Resistance Solidarity Army, or ARSA, of junta-supported Rohingya fighters began April 12 in Rakhine’s Buthidaung township, residents told RFA Burmese on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

The ARSA is an insurgent group that has claimed to support the Muslim Rohingya cause against Myanmar’s military and ethnic Buddhist Rakhines – the main minority group in Rakhine state. The military has reportedly provided training to the ARSA in recent weeks and enlisted it to help repel the ethnic Rakhine army, which now controls eight of 16 townships in the state.

The 25 Rohingya civilians killed were among nearly 3,000 who fled from Buthidaung’s U Hla Hpay, Ywet Nyo Taung and Kun Taing villages after the clashes began.

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Arakan Army forces display weapons seized after they captured a junta military camp in Pe Yan Tuang village, Maungdaw township, Rakhine state, on Feb. 19, 2024. (AA Info Desk)

A Rohingya resident of Buthidaung said that ARSA units based in the three villages had been coordinating with junta troops to fight back against the advancing AA, which ended a ceasefire agreement with the military regime in November and has driven the military out of most of the northern part of the state. 

“Two members of the AA were injured, while six ARSA troops were reportedly killed,” said the resident. “The military carried out an artillery attack on a boat of fleeing Rohingya, killing 25 as the vessel sank."

There have been a number of reports that the military is reaching out to the ARSA, whose raids on border posts and police stations in 2017 were the casus belli for a military ethnic cleansing campaign that drove 1 million Rohingya into Bangladesh, and kept many others in concentration camps.

Since being driven into Bangladesh, ARSA’s primary activities have been to secure control over the refugee camps and eliminate rivals within the Rohingya community. They had not participated in the conflict involving the military, which seized power in Myanmar in a February 2021 coup.

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Rohingya citizens protest in Rakhine state March 19, 2024. (Han Nyein Oo)

The ARSA has been designated as a terrorist group by Myanmar and Malaysia.

RFA was not immediately able to confirm the number of victims, whose identities remained unknown amid ongoing clashes and severed communications lines in Buthidaung on Monday.

‘Attacked while fleeing’

But a Rohingya resident of nearby Maungdaw township told RFA that Rohingya civilians “were attacked [by the military] while they were fleeing” the fighting.

“It is difficult to get and verify news due to communication problems,” he added.

Another resident of Buthidaung confirmed that the military carried out airstrikes in the area.

“A jet fighter dropped two bombs on U Hla Hpay village yesterday [Sunday], where fighting occurred between the AA and the ARSA,” the resident said. “There has been little time to enter the villages [to get personal belongings]. The military bombarded the area for about two-and-a-half hours.”

Attempts by RFA to contact junta spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun and Khaing Thu Kha, the AA’s information officer, went unanswered Monday.  

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Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) members in mid-April 2022. (Arakan Rohingya New Generation Organization via Facebook)

However, the junta reported Sunday that religious buildings, houses and shops in U Hla Hpay and Ywet Nyo Taung villages were destroyed by Arakan Army heavy weapon attacks and gunfire on April 12.

The AA’s Khaing Thu Kha also said in a message posted to his Telegram social network channel that Rohingya armed groups and the military carried out coordinated attacks on the AA in Buthidaung.

About 2,000 Rohingya residents of Buthidaung took to the streets on Sunday accusing the AA of unprovoked raids and killings in Rohingya villages.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.

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