Army’s Account Of Homes Burnt In Village Fire Varies From Residents

By Network Media Group
Thursday, May 21, 2020

An account by residents of how many houses in their village in northern Rakhine State were destroyed by a recent fire contrasted with the Tatmadaw’s official estimate.

The Army claimed only 20 homes in Letkar were damaged but residents said nearly two-thirds of the houses in the village in Mrauk-U township were lost in the fire.

Kyaw Nyunt, the headman of Letkar, told NMG nearly 200 homes were destroyed. “Many parts of our village burned to the ground, including the middle school and the monastery. Three teacher’s dormitories were destroyed,” the headman said. The storage building containing the village’s paddy was also incinerated in the blaze.

The Office of the Commander in Chief of the Burma Army’s website reported the Arakan Army (AA) attacked a Tatmadaw column patrolling the area on May 16. The website said when the Burma Army shot back “AA troops burned some houses in the village around 2:45 p.m. before retreating from the village to a nearby mountain range. Because of the AA insurgent group, nearly 20 houses were destroyed by fire.”

A former resident, who didn’t want their name used, said it’s difficult to say what happened. Villagers that are still living there told the former resident they saw about 50 Tatmadaw soldiers entering Letkar at about 1 p.m. and “minutes later there was gunfire and the village filled with smoke.”

The former Letkar resident and others that fled clashes between the Tatmadaw and AA last year were saddened when they learned many of their homes were torched. Most are living in Tein Nyo, Phaya Hla and Pepin Ying internally displaced persons camps, while others are staying with their relatives in Mrauk-U.

Tun Tha Sein, a parliamentarian for Mrauk-U township, told NMG they’re trying to collect a list of the homes destroyed in Letkar and discussing how to help the villagers.

Both the Tatmadaw and AA denied responsibility for the fire.

Residents from the old and new Nga Tauk Tu Chay, located in Rathaytaung township, accused a Burma Army column of burning both of their villages on May 4.

Tatmadaw soldiers also stand accused of destroying over 500 houses in Tingma in Kyauktaw township on March 22. Although the Army said it wasn’t responsible for the attack, the Rakhine State government gave residents 90 million kyat (est. US$64,000) to rebuild the village.