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1/10/2019 AA Gathering Evidence of Tatmadaw’s Human Rights Abuses

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AA Gathering Evidence of Tatmadaw’s Human


Rights Abuses

 Recently displaced Arakanese children in northern Rakhine's Buthidaung Township. / Mra Tazaung / Facebook

By MOE MYINT 3 January 2019

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1/10/2019 AA Gathering Evidence of Tatmadaw’s Human Rights Abuses

YANGON—Arakan Army (AA) spokesperson U Khine Thukha told The Irrawaddy on


Wednesday that the group is gathering evidence of human rights abuses committed by
Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) soldiers and violations of the Geneva Convention during
the ongoing skirmishes in northern Rakhine State and Chin State’s Paletwa Township.

The AA spokesperson pointed out that Tatmadaw columns are stationed in Buthidaung
Township’s Say Taung Village, camped in a Buddhist monastery situated in an actively
contested area in northern Rakhine. According to him, Tatmadaw soldiers are carrying
out arbitrary arrests of civilians, are shelling artillery into the village and they have used
villagers as human shields in the battlefields.

The AA’s online information page announced on Tuesday that they have already
collected some evidence connecting the Tatmadaw soldiers with human rights
violations and they will submit it to the international organizations. It also urges locals
and civil society groups to file complaints with the AA if the Tatmadaw soldiers target
civilians in the conflict zone.

On Jan. 1, a police force information Facebook page, Ye Zarni, posted information


stating that while unit No. 8 of the border police and a military column were temporarily
stationed in a monastery in Say Taung, Buthidaung Township, they were ambushed by
30 AA rebels and one police officer was seriously injured in the chest. After 10 minutes
on fighting, the AA rebels retreated and the Tatmadaw column went after them.
According to the police information page, no villagers were wounded in the fight.

The post did not elaborate on whether AA fighters fired into the village or the fighting
took place at the outskirts of the village.

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1/10/2019 AA Gathering Evidence of Tatmadaw’s Human Rights Abuses

AA spokesperson U Khine Thukha explained that the fighting had, in fact, erupted in an
area between Kan Pyin and Say Taung villages. Say Taung resident U Maung Tun Lin
confirmed that fighting broke out near his village and some bullets struck the homes of
villagers. According to his explanation, the monastery is situated on a hilltop which is
close to a densely forested area with the village located the foot of the hill.

Ma Nwe Ni Win, a resident of Say Taung village, said bullets had struck her home
during Tuesday’s fighting and that a bullet head was found inside her friend’s house.
No villagers were wounded during the fighting.

“I saw some holes in my house when I get back home. No one was killed because
everyone had already fled to a hillside when we heard gunfire,” said Ma Nwe Ni Win.

The AA spokesperson said, “Whenever the Burmese military come into the village, they
always station [themselves] at monasteries and schools. In fact, international laws
strictly prohibit an army from encamping in such public places and religious buildings.”

U Khine Thukha accused the Tatmadaw of deliberately firing into Kan Pyin Village
during Tuesday’s clashes which caused the entire population on Kan Pyin Village to
flee to neighboring villages. He said that around 20 heavy artillery shells, fired by the
police and government troops stationed in Kun Taung, landed in Say Taung. Similarly, in
separate battles in on Wednesday in Kyauktaw Township and Paletwa Township over
the Chin State border, Tatmadaw units launched missiles towards the villages. AA
information, based on firsthand accounts of displaced locals, says that some locals from
Paletwa’s Adaung Wa Village were killed by howitzer shells on Wednesday. He urged
for the international human rights organizations to look into the alleged crimes against
the Rakhine community on the ground.

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1/10/2019 AA Gathering Evidence of Tatmadaw’s Human Rights Abuses

A video posted to Facebook apparently showing Tatmadaw…


Tatmadaw…

“They intentionally target civilians. It could even be said to be racially targeting the
Rakhine. So my question is, what if there were Burmese villages in the conflict zone?
Would they also fire shots in that way? Deliberately targeting civilians is obviously
indicating the fact that, despite repeatedly citing union spirit, their actions show a lack
of union spirit.”

As the AA and police information pages issue updates, both sides remain silent on
causality numbers. Some locals claim that dozens of Tatmadaw soldiers were killed in
recent clashes. When The Irrawaddy phoned a brigadier general from the military’s
commander-in-chief’s office for clarification on Wednesday, he declined to comment on
the matter and denied the allegations of abuses over the phone.

“As is the nature of fighting, there will surely be casualties. I cannot provide details,”
said the brigadier general.

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1/10/2019 AA Gathering Evidence of Tatmadaw’s Human Rights Abuses

Video footage which was captured by a resident of Sin Khone Taing, a Rohingya village
close to Yae Gaung Chaung and Say Taung villages, includes commentary in the
Rohingya language describing the Tatmadaw troops passing through their village.
Translations of the commentary says the military column briefly came into Sin Khone
Taing village carrying five wounded soldiers.

The video was posted to Facebook on Tuesday on the profile named Sayad Hussin
alongside text stating that the soldiers said they were hungry and requested food from
the Rohingya villagers. It says the military soldiers admitted that some of their troops
were killed during the fighting.

Last December, the Tatmadaw’s commander-in-chief Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing


promised members of the Myanmar Press Council that he will ask border affairs
ministers to be more open with the media. Despite this, when The Irrawaddy attempted
multiple times to contact Col. Phone Tint, the Rakhine State border affairs minister, he
did not answer calls. In addition, Western Command’s Col. Win Zaw Oo’s phone was
switched off during repeated attempts by The Irrawaddy to contact him.

The AA has said they have no plans to reveal the number of government military
causalities in order not to defend the massive offensives of the army. He declined to
provide the number of government battalions and light infantries that the AA has been
facing in northern Rakhine since the end of monsoon season.

“Although I cannot say the number of battalions, I’m pretty sure that they have halted
operations in northern Shan recently in order to pour [more troops] into northern
Rakhine. Surprisingly, they are also bringing ordinary police and border police into the
battlefield for security reasons. This is an attempt to complicate the situation.” said U
Khine Thukha.

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1/10/2019 AA Gathering Evidence of Tatmadaw’s Human Rights Abuses

Based on updates from the AA, The Irrawaddy has learned that the conflict zone is
broadening, as AA and government troops continue to fight in at least five townships—
Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun and Chin State’s Paletwa. The AA
updates have made no mention of the mine attack on Rakhine State’s chief minister’s
convoy on the Yangon-Sittwe highway in Mrauk U Township on Tuesday.

According to local non-profit organizations, more than 4,000 people in four townships
are currently displaced and local relief groups are giving humanitarian assistance to the
IDPs (internally displaced persons). Some members of relief groups operating in
Paletwa Township told The Irrawaddy that military officers are not allowing aid in the
form of rice bags into the area.

Topics: AA, Ethnic Conflict, Rakhine, Tatmadaw

Moe Myint
The Irrawaddy

Moe Myint is  Senior Reporter at the English edition of The Irrawaddy.

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