Village Head Shot Dead by Unknown Assailants in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

A village administrator was shot dead on Tuesday at his home in a township in western Myanmar’s violence-ridden Rakhine state, prompting speculation by local officials that the rebel Arakan Army, whose fighting with Myanmar forces has intensified in recent months, was behind the killing.

Maung Kyaw, administrator of Kyauk Khot village in Minbya township’s Tharyarkone village tract, is the fourth person to be killed by unknown assailants in Rakhine since last September in what many believe to be attacks on people thought be informants by the two warring sides.

Police have not identified any suspects or possible motives for the shootings.

“[He was] shot at four times, but hit only three times,” Kyauk Khot village clerk Maung Tun Win told RFA’s Myanmar Service, after learning about the killing from others.

“I wasn’t there when the incident occurred, and his home is far from mine, so we didn’t even hear the sound of gunfire,” he said. “But villagers are frightened, and we hope it won't happen again.”

Maung Kyaw and his family lived in a distant part of the village where they moved to set up a snack shop, said Mya Zaw, chief of Minbya’s Myoma Police Station said.

He was alone at the time of the shooting by unknown gunmen, he said.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” Mya Zaw said. “We can’t say much since we haven’t got enough information.”

Local residents said they fear for their safety amid the killings of civilians shot to death by unknown gunmen and an increasing number of landmine explosions during the more than two months of escalated conflict between Myanmar soldiers and Arakan rebel troops in the state.

Myanmar soldiers often search villages in active conflict zones, and the AA has issued warnings to local residents not to inform the national army about their activities, which has led some to believe that armed groups are responsible for the shootings.

RFA could not reach AA spokesman Khine Thukha for comment on Maung Kyaw’s killing.

Gunmen remain at large

Tun Aung Kyaw, a leader of the Arakan National Party (ANP), which represents the interests of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in Rakhine state, acknowledged the uncertainly surrounding the attackers’ identities since the killers in all four cases have not yet been determined.

“We don't know exactly which group assassinated him,” he said about Maung Kyaw. “We now have about four people killed by gunmen in Rakhine.”

Corporal Poe Lone, a member of the Myanmar Army’s Military Security Affairs Unit and locally known as Sa Ya Pha, was gunned down last September.

Khin Than Maung, a founder and member of the central executive committee of the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) party, was shot dead at his home in Kyar Inn Taung village in Rakhine’s Myebon township on Dec. 24.

Speculation on social media suggested that the AA was behind his killing, because several weeks earlier, a number of AA supporters accused him of leaking information to the Myanmar Army, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy.

At the same time, some AA backers accused Myanmar military intelligence officials of the murder by linking them to the act.

Maung Aye Thein from Ywar Huang village of Minbya’s Pan Myaung village tract was gunned down on Jan. 22.

“It’s an unnecessary loss of lives, and the killings are unacceptable for the surviving families as well as from a rule of law aspect,” said Tun Aung Kyaw.

“Problems should be resolved in other ways even if it’s very upsetting,” he said.

Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Nandar Chann. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.