Elderly Woman Injured in Shooting in Myanmar’s War-torn Rakhine State

Myanmar soldiers hit an elderly woman in the forehead with a bullet Monday as they fired more than 20 shots upon entering Panmyaung village in war-torn Rakhine state, her family members and a village official told RFA.

Tun Win, the son-in-law of the injured 70-year-old woman, War Sein, said troops started firing as they neared the entrance of the village in Minbya township.

“They had entered the village,” he said. “The children ran away as soon as they were close to the village. Then, they started firing at them for running away.”

Tun Win said he was in War Sein’s house when the armed assault began.

“I witnessed the bullet graze my mother-in-law’s head,” he said. “Now, she has been taken to the hospital.”

The elderly woman is being treated at Panmyaung Hospital, he added.

Village administrator Tin Aung Kyaw said eight residents were heading off to do farm work when the shooting began.

“As the military troops ran into them, they ran away in fear,” he said. “They said the soldiers fired gunshots into the air. We assume that the bullet that grazed the villager came from a soldier’s gun because it occurred at the same time.”

Tin Aung Kyaw said there have been incidents in which Myanmar soldiers have detained, interrogated, and forced local villagers to be their guides.

Some villagers who fear the troops were running away from the community when they encountered other soldiers who opened fire, he said.

Colonel Win Zaw Oo, spokesman for the military’s Western Command responsible for Rakhine state, said there were no soldiers in Panmyaung village on Monday morning when the incident occurred.

“Our troops didn’t go to the Panmyaung area today,” he said. “There are military troops in the Panmyaung Mountains for clearance operations.”

“I heard that an elderly woman standing outdoors was grazed by a bullet this morning, [but] I confirmed with the troops in that area that they didn’t go [there],” he said.

But Tun Win insisted that Myanmar soldiers fired the shot that hit War Sein.

“It’s true that the military fired that shot,” he said. “I know they will deny it, but we saw them fire that shot. They are currently present in the village.”

Hostilities between the Myanmar Army and the rebel Arakan Army (AA) have raged in northern Rakhine state since late 2018, causing about 90 civilian deaths and displacing tens of thousands of others.

Myanmar forces frequently search villages close to areas where clashes occur to try to root out civilians whom they believe are helping the Arakan force, which is fighting for greater autonomy in the state. Civilians have reported numerous incidents in which soldiers have abused them or their fellow villagers during questioning.

Government soldiers also have reportedly fired indiscriminately into villages inhabited by civilians, though military officials say they only fire into communities from which AA members have shot at them first.

Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.