Myanmar soldiers and rebel Arakan Army troops exchanged fire for four hours Monday morning near Ohn Chaung village in restive Rakhine state’s Rathedaung township, with soldiers returning with border guards later in the day to search and loot homes, residents said.
Fighting between the two forces intensified in northern Rakhine following deadly coordinated attacks by Arakan fighters on police outposts in neighboring Buthidaung township on Jan. 4, though it remains unclear what prompted the skirmish in Ohn Chaung village, they said.
We didn’t even have our breakfast when the fighting started, said a resident who declined to be named out of fear for his safety, adding that government troops began shooting into the village at 8 a.m. with small and heavy weapons.
We are in big trouble, he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. We don’t know why they were shooting like that. Some villagers have fled. Those who live near the creek fled by boats to the other side, but we were not able to flee.
In the evening, military and Border Guard Police (BGP) officers searched houses in the village and took residents’ jewelry, money, and mobile phones, the villager said.
Those who sought safety in nearby villages are afraid of returning home because the military and BGP are still conducting searches of the roughly 80 houses in the community, he said.
Locals said the military unit stationed near Thamee Hla village went to the conflict area to help their comrades, said Tin Maung Win, a lawmaker who represents the Ratheduang constituency in the regional parliament and is currently visiting the township.
People are frightened, he said. They are worried with thoughts of what could happen to them when the government army comes to their village again.
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