Rohingya villagers from Buthidaung in Rakhine State attend the funeral of victims of an Army helicopter attack on April 4. / Abu Marwan
YANGON—At least six Rohingya casual laborers in northern Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township were killed and more than 10 were wounded in an attack by Army helicopters on Wednesday afternoon, according to a military spokesman and witnesses.
Ahmad Ramahi (name changed for his safety) from Kin Taung Rohingya village said three neighbors from Tha Pyu Chaung were shot to death and one wounded; two from Hpon Nyo Leik were killed and three wounded; one from his village was killed and three injured; while four from Hteik Tu Pauk village were wounded by in the helicopter attack. Others from different villages were also injured, he said.
He said most of Rohingya villagers rely on bamboo harvesting in the summer season as the main traditional small business in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships. They normally store the extra bamboo cuttings near the Saidin waterfall in order to make bamboo rafts, which are the only way to transport the bamboo to markets and urban areas.
As usual, the Saidin Waterfall area was crowded with several hundred Rohingya casual laborers on Wednesday, and the region was peaceful until noon. At about 2 p.m, a helicopter fired machine gun rounds and hellfire missiles into the crowds twice, witnesses said.
Ahmad Ramahi said, “There was no armed engagement with the Arakan Army [AA] before the Army attack helicopter flew over the Saidin River.”
Another Kin Taung villager, Abu Sayyaf, corroborated that there was no fighting between the AA and Army troops in the region. He claimed that several hundred Rohingya villagers were making a bamboo raft for floating down the river and some were carrying bamboo from the forest to the foot of waterfall, when the workers were abruptly fired upon by a helicopter for no apparent reason.
“The rest of the workers are Muslim,” Abu Sayyaf said.
A worker who was wounded by shrapnel and received medical treatment at Buthidaung Hospital said, “The helicopter shot at us for about half an hour.”
A village administrator from Hpon Nyo Leik told The Irrawaddy over the phone from downtown Buthidaung that a total of five bodies were transported to Buthidaung General Hospital on Thursday morning.
An Arakanese from Kyar Nyo Pyin village said that a helicopter flew from the direction of Myo Ma Chaung to the Saidin waterfall. Since last week, as several villages were attacked by military convoys, most of the villagers from that region fled to urban areas.
Regarding the deaths of civilians in Sai Din valley, Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, said that about 150 members of the AA reached the region on Wednesday and clashed with the Myanmar Army at noon. And then at about 7 p.m. the AA members attacked a military base situated near Hpon Nyo Leik.
When asked whether the rest of the dead civilians and patients in hospital were Rohingya Muslims, he said, “As Bengalis were together with the AA there, about six were killed and nine wounded. At the moment, we are providing them medical treatment at a Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] hospital.”
The term “Bengali” is widely used in Myanmar to refer to Rohingya.
In 2017, Myanmar military clearance operations in Rakhine State following a series of deadly attacks on security forces by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army caused about 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.