image source, Getty Images

image caption, Fighting has been going on for months between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State.

  • the author, Jonathan Head and the Burmese Service
  • the role, BBC News
  • Reporting from Bangkok

Local residents and opposition forces say at least 50 people were killed in an attack by Myanmar troops on a village in Rakhine state last week.

Warning: You may find some details in this piece disturbing.

Witnesses told the BBC that the village was terrorized for two-and-a-half days as soldiers blindfolded and beat them, doused their skin with burning petrol and urinated on some of them. Forced to drink.

They were looking for supporters of the Arakan Army (AA), which has become one of the most effective ethnic fighting forces in Myanmar.

The National Unity Government (NUG), which represents the ousted civilian government, said in a statement that 51 people between the ages of 15 and 70 were “violently tortured and killed”. AA estimates the death toll to be over 70.

The ruling military council, or junta, has denied the allegations, which are among the worst atrocities in Myanmar’s three-year civil war.

“They asked the men if AA was in the village,” one woman told the BBC.

“Whatever they answered, whether they said AA was there or not, or they didn’t know, the soldiers beat them.”

In just six months, the AA has captured much of Rakhine State, forcing the military to continue its retreat. It ended a ceasefire with the army last year and joined ethnic rebels in other parts of the country in a joint operation to topple the junta that seized power in February 2021.

“I saw with my own eyes that my husband was taken away in a military vehicle. My son was separated from both of us, and I don’t know where he is. Now I don’t know if my son and my husband are alive. Dead or not,” the woman told the BBC.

Names of witnesses are not being used to protect them. He told the BBC that everyone in the village, which has just over 1,000 houses, was kept in the open for two days in the sun, with little to eat, while dozens of men They were tied up, blindfolded and some were taken away. In trucks for further inquiries. Many are yet to return.

“They were very thirsty, standing in the sun all day, begging for water. But the soldiers urinated in water bottles and gave them to the men,” the woman told the BBC. told.

He said he heard “a lot of gunshots”, but did not see who had been shot “because we had to keep our heads down”.

“I didn’t dare look. They called someone standing near them. Then I heard a shot. He never came back.”

She was crying because she was worried about her husband and son: “I didn’t know if they were dead or alive. I was praying for them, ‘Buddha, please save them’.”

Survivors say they can hear soldiers calling for shovels to bury the bodies. They say some were clearly drunk.

More than 100 soldiers are believed to have raided the village of Biai Phyo, just outside the state capital Sittwe, on Wednesday.

Sittwe, a city of about 200,000 inhabitants, a major port and airport, is one of the few remaining strongholds of the Burmese military. But the insurgents are close, and enjoy the sympathy of much of the ethnic Rakhine population.

Locals said men who had tattoos showing support for AA were singled out for particularly harsh treatment. An eyewitness said the soldiers cut off the tattoo’s skin, poured petrol on it and set it on fire.

Another eyewitness recalled an army officer telling villagers he had come from fighting in northern Shan State, where the army had suffered heavy losses late last year, to take revenge on them.

Losing Rakhine state on the border with Bangladesh would be the biggest humiliation yet at the hands of the armed forces, which have dominated Myanmar since independence in 1948.

Those who were left standing in the market on Friday, mostly women, children and the elderly, were ordered to collect some things and leave. They said soldiers had already looted valuables, such as gold, jewelery or solar panels, from their homes. Locals were initially taken to a stadium in Sittwe, but most have moved to take refuge in Buddhist monasteries in the city.

The BBC understands the army still controls Baifue, and no one is being allowed to return. There are reports that a large part of the village has been burnt down.

The NUG has pledged to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes in Baifu. The AA also accused what it called the “fascist military council” of “satanic atrocities” and the gang-rape of some women in Baifue.

The junta has denied all allegations of violence, saying it was taking “peace and security” measures after seeing only sandbag weavers in the village. It has accused the Arakan Army of carrying out drone attacks from this area of ​​Sittwe.

Rakhine State’s isolation and the intensity of the conflict make an independent investigation into what happened in Baifue impossible for the foreseeable future.

But the accounts given by survivors are an ominous warning of what could happen elsewhere in Myanmar as the military increasingly loses ground to a confident and well-armed opposition movement.



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