NAY PYI TAW, Mar 18, 2020, Myanmar Times. Fighting between the Tatmadaw (military) and Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State during the past two weeks has killed 11 civilians and injured at least 69, a local ethnic armed group said Tuesday, Myanmar Times reported.
The clashes were heaviest in Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U townships, where most of the casualties occurred, the Ethnic Rakhine Congress said. It said at least 13 people were missing.
The group said 23 villages in Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U had been burned down in the fighting.
Zaw Zaw Tun, secretary of the congress, said Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw and Paletwa in neighbouring Chin State have become important battlegrounds for the two forces due to their access to the Kaladan River.
“The fighting started to intensify in February,” he said. “The Tatmadaw brought in heavy weapons to clear the areas near the Kaladan. They entered the villages using heavy weapons. We can’t stay in the refugee camps because they’re unsafe.”
In Paletwa, the Chin National League for Democracy on Friday urged an independent investigation of alleged military air strikes on several villages that killed at least 21 people and injured at least 35 others in three days of fighting last week.
The group said 1500 villagers displaced by the air strikes signed a statement calling for the investigation.
“The Tatmadaw said it was firing at AA fighters hiding in the villages, which is unacceptable,” said Salai Cieu Bik Thawng, general secretary of the league. “It should not bomb a whole village because it thinks AA members are hiding there. There were civilians in those villages.”
“The Tatmadaw has a responsibility to deal with the civilian casualties,” he added, saying that most of the injured are being treated in Sami sub-township hospital and Mindat district hospital.
The military intensified attacks on the AA last month in an effort to rescue troops trapped in enemy territory, according to Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson of the Tatmadaw’s True News agency.
“It’s true that we use helicopters but we did it surgically,” he said. “We didn’t fire haphazardly. Even if we use planes, only AA soldiers were killed. We fired because AA soldiers were near the village.”
However, he said it was difficult to distinguish AA fighters from villagers because they were wearing civilian clothes.
“They said the civilians were hit by our return fire. We didn’t fire haphazardly,” he said.
Khaing Thu Kha, a spokesman for the AA, said they had received no offers of assistance for two of the 36 soldiers they are holding prisoners who are in need of urgent medical care for wounds.
“Their injuries are serious. They could die unless they get treatment,” he said, adding that 10 other prisoners have minor wounds.