Civilians who were forced to flee their village in southern Chin State in March reported seeing Tatmadaw soldiers in their abandoned village several hours before a fire on Tuesday.
A person who works with a civil society organization (CSO), who didn’t want their name used, told Khonumthung News that residents of Oukmee Letwa can see everything that happens in their village from the displaced camp across the river where they now live.
“We saw Burma Army soldiers in the village between 8 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. And then the village burned at 2:00 p.m.”
The source said they did not see the Arakan Army (AA) soldiers in the area for a long time. With the Tatmadaw maintaining a strong presence nearby, they assumed that AA was no longer around. Yet, the CSO worker couldn’t say with certainty which of the armed groups torched the village.
When the fire started, some people tried to cross the Kalandan River in boats to put out the blaze, but after the Tatmadaw started firing at them they quickly returned, said Ko Peter, editor of Khumi Media Group. Tatmadaw soldiers from IB-289 told villagers they could cross the river to extinguish the fire, he said, but when they tried soldiers from LID-22, who are stationed on a hill near Mee Letwa, shot at them.
All six hundred residents of the village fled in March, with most of them moving to the displaced camp in Paletwa town, while some relocated to Yangon. Before the fire, there were over 120 homes in Oukmee Letwa. At least half are believed to have been destroyed during the fire.
Photo Credit: Khumi Media