Myanmar’s military government denies accusations by ethnic army enemies that they have killed 76 villagers


BANGKOK (AP) — A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government denied allegations that army troops and their local allies killed 76 people when they entered a village in western Rakhine state last week, state-run media reported Wednesday.

Rakhine has become a flashpoint in Myanmar’s nationwide civil war, pitting pro-democracy guerrillas and ethnic minority forces against the country’s military rulers, who took power in 2021 after the military ousted Myanmar’s elected government. Aung San Suu Kyi.

The fighting there has also raised fears of a resurgence of organized violence against members of the Muslim Rohingya minority, similar to the upsurge that drove at least 740,000 members of their community in 2017. flees to neighboring country Bangladesh for safety.

The allegations of a massacre in Byine Phyu village in northern Rakhine have been made by the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed organization that has been on the offensive against army posts in Rakhine since November last year. They have gained control of nine of the seventeen townships in Rakhine and one in neighboring Chin State.

Byine Phyu village is located on the outskirts of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, in a strategic location with easy access to the Bay of Bengal.

The Arakan Army is the well-trained and well-armed military wing of the Rakhine Buddhist minority’s political movement, which seeks autonomy from Myanmar’s central government.

However, the country has also been accused of major human rights violations, particularly in connection with the capture of the city Buthidaung on May 18. It was accused of forcing the city’s estimated 200,000 residents, mostly from the Rohinyga ethnic minority, to leave and then setting fire to most of the buildings there.

It denies the charges and blames the military for burning the city, but residents interviewed by phone since the incident told The Associated Press that the Arakan Army was responsible.

The competing claims could not be independently verified because strict travel restrictions in that region make it virtually impossible to verify details of such incidents firsthand.

Details of the incident in Byine Phyu village were also disputed.

Major General Zaw Min Tun, the spokesman for the ruling military council, was quoted in the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper on Wednesday as saying that army troops had gone to the village on May 29 to kill members of the Arakan Army. search and were detained approximately. 20 people for questioning.

He said security forces had been forced to shoot three male suspects, who were not villagers, when they tried to seize a weapon from an army officer, but that no mass killing had taken place.

An Arakan Army statement released on Tuesday said about 170 soldiers from the military regional command headquarters in Sittwe, accompanied by armed members of a pro-army Rakhine group and local Muslims recruited by the army, arrested everyone in Byine Phyu village and killed 76 people.

It alleged that the army raiders brutally treated their prisoners and raped three women.

Only one in twenty area residents contacted by AP were willing to speak about the incident. Several people said they did not want to talk because they were concerned about friends of relatives who had been taken into custody.

One woman said her younger brother was among those arrested, but she did not know how many people had been killed or even if her brother was still alive. She spoke on condition of anonymity to ensure her personal safety.

The UN Human Rights Office warned on May 24 of “frightening and disturbing reports” of the impact of new violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, pointing to new attacks on Rohingya civilians by the military and an ethnic armed group fighting against it.

The fighting in Rakhine has raised particular concern as it signals that the Rohingya minority could face renewed violent persecution.

The Rohingya were targeted in a brutal counter-insurgency campaign that included rape and murder. An estimated 740,000 people fled to neighboring Bangladesh when their villages were burned down by government forces in 2017.

They have lived in Myanmar for generations but are widely regarded by many in the country’s Buddhist majority, including mainly members of the Rakhine minority, as having illegally migrated from Bangladesh. The Rohingya face a great deal of prejudice and are generally denied citizenship and other basic rights.

After the Arakan army captured Buthidaung on May 18, Rohingya activists accused the army of burning houses in the town and forcing residents to flee. The Arakan Army dismissed the accusations as baseless and blamed the military government forces and local Muslims who fought alongside them.

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