At least seven civilians, including four Rohingya Muslims, have died and 30 residents have been injured in the past 11 days in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, a local aid worker said on Wednesday, as the number of Non-combatant deaths are rising amid fighting between government forces and the rebel Arakan army.
Nyi Pu, chairman of Kyauktaw town’s Phyusin Metta welfare group, said his organization had helped at least 10 injured civilians in the past week.
“In just seven days, a Rakhine woman from Myauktaung village and three people from a Muslim village were injured, and one Muslim woman died,” he added. he told RFA’s Myanmar service.
“In another village, one of five injured children died when a mortar shell landed near them,” he said. “Yesterday four more people were injured when another mortar shell fell on the village of Myauktaung.”
The civilian death toll in North Rakhine reached over 100, while the number of injured was over 250 in December 2018, when hostilities between the two armies escalated, according to Rakhine Ethnics Congress, a local relief group.
The growing number comes despite claims by the Burma Army and the Arakan Army (AA) that their soldiers have been ordered to follow the rules to avoid harming villagers.
Hla Phyu Sein, the mother of one of the recent victims, said Myanmar Military Battalion No. 376 prevented a vehicle from transporting injured civilians to a hospital in Kyauktaw.
“They blocked the road and ordered us to turn around,” she said. “We were not allowed to go through their checkpoint.”
The driver then had to spend more than two hours getting passes through three military checkpoints on the way to the hospital before the group could continue, Hla Phyu Sein said.
“They arrived at the hospital around 10 p.m. while they left the village at 7 p.m., she said.
In Kyauktaw and Rathedaung townships, one person died and 11 were injured on Monday, villagers told RFA, adding that they had difficulty transporting villagers to a hospital due to a curfew in the dusk to dawn in the area.
In another incident, four teenage students were injured when a mortar shell exploded while playing football in the village of Myauktaung in Kyauktaw.
“They are shooting blind,” Myat Tun, director of Rakhine Human Rights Defenders, said of the Myanmar forces.
“That’s why civilians are injured,” he said. “I would like to ask them to respect the lives of civilians.”
“Strategy to move the villagers”
The Kyauktaw Aid Group and family members of those killed and injured have requested the Minister of Border Affairs, Colonel Min Than, Minister of Security and Border Affairs of Rakhine State, to leave the vehicles carrying wounded civilians pass immediately through military checkpoints en route to hospitals.
AA spokesman Khine Thukha said indiscriminate firing by Burmese forces was responsible for civilian deaths and injuries.
“The number of injured villagers is increasing due to the threats posed by the army,” he said. “It’s because they’re shooting blind.”
In Rathedaung township, Burmese soldiers on boats patrolling the Mayu River fired at riverbanks and villages, while troops from artillery camps in the area fired haphazardly, he said. declared.
“It’s kind of a strategy to get the villagers out,” he added.
The government military said AA soldiers rooted in ethnic Rakhine villages, and used this as justification to fire on and invade communities.
Colonel Win Zaw Oo, Burma Army Western Command spokesman responsible for Rakhine State, denied that soldiers were hitting villages with mortars.
“First, I can say that they weren’t dropping mortars on the villages because the fighting is in the jungle and far from the villages,” he told RFA.
“Secondly, the AA members forced the villagers to provide them with food and water, so the villagers were injured because they were on the battlefield,” he said.
Win Zaw Oo also defended stopping vehicles used to transport injured civilians to medical facilities.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Nayrein Kyaw. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.