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Attacks on civilians in northern Arakan State continued over the weekend, according to a statement from the Office of the State Counsellor, which described the assailants as “terrorists” in three violent incidents that saw four people killed, including a village administrator.
Four civilians from Tarein village, Maungdaw Township, were reportedly hunting for tortoises on Saturday morning near the Kyainchaung-Taungpyo road when eight sword-wielding assailants set upon them. Two of the attackers’ victims, Aung Kyaw and Ko Ko Thein, ultimately succumbed to injuries sustained in the melee that ensued, while San Thar and Kyan Thein Aung managed to escape and report the incident to local police.
“Around 11am on 25 June, the bodies of the missing, Aung Kyaw and Ko Ko Thein, were found and sent to Maungdaw Hospital for autopsies,” said Maung Ohn, a member of the Arakan State legislature.
Also on Saturday, more than a dozen masked men broke into the home of Abu Harshine, the village administrator for Chaungtaga village, fatally attacking him too with swords. The slain local leader’s son and daughter were wounded as they attempted to defend their father, the State Counsellor’s Office announced.
And on Sunday morning in Myo Thagyi village, Maungdaw Township, border guard security forces reported that three masked, sword-wielding men forced their way into the home of a man named Pwayas, who was also slashed to death. Two of Pwayas’s sisters and his son were wounded by the assailants and sent to Maungdaw Hospital for treatment.
Over the course of a two-day clearance operation conducted by security forces last week, three “armed attackers” were killed in self-defence, according to the Office of the State Counsellor’s Information Committee. During that operation, in the Mayu mountain range region, security forces were said to have discovered evidence of militant training activities, include a tunnel, homemade weapons and food rations.
Tensions in Arakan are being felt by both Buddhists — a minority in the state’s north — and Muslims, one resident said.
“Muslims also have concerns and are living with caution,” said Maung Lay, a local Muslim man.
“The MPs and locals have called for protection and strengthened security in the areas. However, they are not satisfied with the actions taken by the government,” Maung Ohn, the state lawmaker, told DVB.
“Nothing has been done so far. That’s why the problem just keeps growing,” Maung Ohn added.
“The presence of rule of law is important. Due to a lack of rule of law in the area, the problem persists. When we reported some of the things taking place in our villages, the security forces did not even come to check. Bengalis also informed and reported to the security forces but they did not act on it. I am beginning to doubt the security forces.”
Maung Ohn said the multiple “cases of terrorists killing civilians” over recent weeks and months had prompted residents of several villages in the area to flee their homes.
“It is a very serious concern,” he said. “That has happened because there is no security there. Also, Bengali farmers are not plowing the farmland when it is about time to do so. They were alarmed by the escalating circumstances. Some even relocated to other areas.”
Phone Ko Naing, the administrator for Kyainchaung village, which is located near Tarein, said the situation at his village was relatively normal.
“Villagers from Tarein village said they do not dare to stay in their village anymore. Kyainchaung [village] is currently stable,” he said. “The shops are operating as usual. The shoppers come to the shops as well. However, we still have to wait and see.”
The local administrator added, “I heard that more security forces were deployed. The Tatmadaw [Burma Army] forces were also patrolling around. I do not want the Tatmadaw forces to be withdrawn.”
The State Counsellor’s Office has stated that 34 civilians were killed and 22 more went missing from 9 October — when militant attacks on three border guard posts prompted an intense security crackdown in northern Arakan State — to 20 June. Those figures do not include the latest casualties from the weekend’s violence.