Burmese Military Destroyed ICRC Aid Boat in Rakhine State: Local Sources

Thursday, October 29, 2020

A boat rented by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to carry rice and other rations up the Mayu River for internally displaced persons (IDPs) was burned this week in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, allegedly by the Burmese military.

The boat had traveled from Sittwe, and was carrying rice, cooking oil, beans, and women’s sanitary products, a local man told NMG. Burmese soldiers reportedly searched the boat near Kam Htaung village in Rathedaung Township on October 28 while it was en route to Buthidaung Township.

“When the boat arrived in Kam Htaunt, Burmese navy forces checked it. They didn’t shoot at the boat. They burned all of the goods. After that, they shot at the boat with artillery from the riverbank,” the local source told NMG, adding, “I am sure that the Burmese navy destroyed the boat.”

According to the local, one person died and two people were seriously injured in the incident.

“I don’t exactly know how many people were on the boat. One person escaped after he dove into the water…. Another person died on the spot. Two other people got serious injuries,” he said, adding that the injured people were sent to Zaytipyin hospital and then Sittwe to be treated for burns.

The Burma Army and the Arakan Army (AA) have had multiple clashes in Rathedaung Township since October 26, locals have said.

“There have been clashes on the road between Rathedaung and Buthidaung Township in recent days,” another local man said, adding, “Jet fighters attacked Aung Thasi, and the Kyauktan area today.”

However, he described the burning of the boat as “a completely different story.”

“The navy attacked a boat which was carrying food rations from the ICRC for IDPs,” he said.

The Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC) confirmed that the ICRC sends food rations from Sittwe to Buthidaung IDPs every month, and that this is the first time one of their boats has been targeted.

“The Burmese military attacked the boat. There are many military ships in the Mayu River. There are many patrol boats there,” REC secretary Zaw Zaw Tun told NMG. “The ICRC logo is stuck on all of their property. I think the Burma Army will say that they tried to stop the boat but the boat wouldn’t stop, or that AA soldiers might be on the boat, then they shot at the boat and destroyed the boat with fire.”

If the Burmese military attacked a humanitarian aid boat, Zaw Zaw Tun said it would amount to a war crime.

“The Burma Army doesn’t like sending food rations to IDPs and local people. They don’t assume that these goods are for IDPs and local people,” he told NMG. “This is a human rights violation. I think it’s a war crime.”

In a post on their website, the military’s information team denied that they had attacked the ICRC aid boat.

“The news that was spread on Facebook is not true. It’s not true that the ICRC’s food rations boat was attacked. Actually, it was the AA’s boat. AA soldiers were on the boat. AA soldiers attacked from the boat with both small and heavy weapons. Security forces shot back at them. After that, the AA’s boat was destroyed with fire and it sank in the Mayu River,” the team posted online.