One child died, while 15 villagers were left wounded following a fierce fighting between Myanmar military forces and the rebel group Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine state, hours after the Myanmar government formally branded the latter, a terrorist group.
President Win Myint declared that the AA and its political wing, the United League of Arakan (ULA), and affiliated groups and individuals “have constituted a danger to law and order, peace and stability of the country and public peace” and are unlawful under Section 15(2) of the Unlawful Associations Act.
The declaration was seen by a local lawmaker as a move that could lead to “endless fighting in the future.”
“This is the time to secure the peace through political consultations, [but]now this move has inflamed the fire for more armed conflicts,” said Pe Than, a lower house lawmaker from the Arakan National Party.
“It is very concerning that the government has confirmed that it favours the military’s actions over negotiations,” he said. “We see the possibility of endless fighting in the future.”
“We see many more armed conflicts are coming in northern Rakhine and Paletwa township of Chin state because the government has designed the AA a terrorist group,” said Whei Tin, a Chin state lawmaker from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
“I receive many phone calls from local people asking me how they can survive in the midst of endless battles,” added Whei Tin, who previously had been kidnapped and held by the AA for three months.
After fighting ended on Monday, the Myanmar military dropped bombs from a helicopter during an airstrike on Chaetung village, which appeared to be in response to the AA’s earlier armed assault on the military training school, villagers told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The mostly ethnic Chin community of about 170 households is among those that comprise Minbya’s Kanni village tract where the military training school is located and near to where the clashes took place.
“At first, the blasts didn’t hit the village” said a Chaetung resident who declined to be named out of concern for his safety. “Later, they hit the village and burned the houses.”
“As the aircraft flew overhead, villagers hid beneath the houses, but when the houses were hit and burned, they got burned in the fire,” the resident said.
Among the 15 injured Chin civilians were seven students and a toddler who were taken to a hospital hours after the attack once permission for their transfer was granted, villagers said.
Maung Biden, a 10-year-old who was injured, died at Minbya Township Hospital Tuesday morning, while two others among the injured were transferred to Sittwe General Hospital, they said.
“We were able to leave the village early this morning around 6 a.m. for Minbya,” said a volunteer who requested anonymity out of fear for his safety. “The child had burns on his entire body.”
Myanmar forces denied responsibility for the destruction, with military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun saying there is no reason that bombs would fall into Chaetung village.
“These people must have been killed by other causes,” he told RFA. “It is impossible that bombs would fall into their village. Our strikes only target areas where the AA launches attacks against us.”
“Our targets are so far away from the villages,” he added. “We have already released information regarding the attacks and the routes they [the AA]used in the attack.”
The AA announced Monday that its soldiers burned a military training school building, killed about 20 Myanmar troops, and captured others along with ammunition.
An announcement issued by the military commander-in-chief’s office the same day said 300 AA soldiers had attacked five target areas early Monday, but later retreated with heavy casualties. Myanmar forces captured the bodies of 15 AA soldiers and 15 different kinds of weapons, the office said. (Source: RFA)