Four civilians were killed and three injured after fighting broke out in downtown Paletwa between the Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA) in southern Chin State.
Two children and a woman died instantly when a shell landed in the Myanmar Economic Bank in downtown Paletwa on April 22. Another woman was killed by shrapnel while working in her garden in Meletwa on April 21.
Ester, 28, was working in the bank when she was killed with her daughter, Mai Elizabeth Moe Moe Aung, 4, and Maung Aung Naing Win, 9. Than Than Win, 49, was killed by shrapnel near her home. Lau Har Kee, 45, Hla Thein Aung, 50 and Awi Lon Yard, 24, were injured during clashes, according to the Khumi Affairs Coordinating Committee.
“I think the Burma Army launched an offensive operation that led to multiple clashes (with AA),” a resident of Paletwa told Khonumthung News. Two bank staff received minor injuries, the local said.
Fighting between combatants has increased in the last month near Paletwa, where residents say clashes between the armed groups are frequent.
Salai Issac Khin, the former municipal minister for Chin State, told Khonumthung News, he heard that AA and the Burma Army exchanged fire from the opposite ends of Paletwa. He said the AA soldiers were based on a mountain range on the west bank of the Kaladan River, which runs through Paletwa, and Burma Army IB-289 troops were on the east bank.
When civilians are killed by heavy weapons the armed groups often blame each other to avoid accepting responsibility for the casualties they caused, said Salai Cieu Bik Thawng, the secretary of Chin National League for Democracy. He said the government and independent organizations need to investigate to find out who’s accountable for the civilian deaths.
Salai Cieu Bik Thawng criticized State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for thanking the officers and the regular soldiers of the Burma Army for their bravery and for sacrificing their lives to protect the people and properties in Paletwa. He said the state counsellor should be calling for the end to the conflict and not thanking the Army for fighting. Suu Kyi made the statement on April 21 regarding a rice shipment that the Army helped deliver to the township.
Burma Army fighter jets reportedly killed seven people in Hnan Chaung on April 7. The victims included two children and a nursing mother and baby. Since March 14, there have been at least 28 villagers killed and about 40 people injured by the fighting in Paletwa township. Thousands have been displaced by clashes. Rights groups want the conflict to stop to help the residents of the township adequately protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.