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HomeBreakingDeath toll in alleged massacre near Sittwe rises to 76

Death toll in alleged massacre near Sittwe rises to 76

The Arakan Army (AA) claimed on Tuesday that the death toll from the alleged murder of civilians by the Burma Army and its allies in Byine Phyu village of Sittwe Township in Arakan State rose to 76. It previously stated that women, children, and elders were among the 53 killed.

“The number of those who got killed during these last four days starting from May 29 in the Byine Phyu Massacre has risen to 76. We are currently investigating the subsequent events and will report [it] in a timely manner,” added the AA. 

Accusations were leveled at the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) along with “Muslim conscripts” – a reference to the Rohingya who were forcefully conscripted into the Burma Army – of being involved in the massacre. 

The ALP has denied its involvement, calling the accusations “baseless”. It claimed that the number of dead in Byine Phyu has been exaggerated by the AA and that it will reveal its own figures at a later date.

The killings allegedly occurred after the Burma Army and its allies detained more than 1,500 civilians in the village from May 29 to June 1. The AA accused the Burma Army of beating the civilians, denying them food, and forcing them to stay outdoors under the sun.

“All residents were arrested, including the elderly and young children. Men between the ages of 15 and 70 were forced to take off their shirts, and the military tied cloth around their faces,” a Byine Phyu resident told news agency Development Media Group.

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) condemned the massacre and claimed that it was carried out by Burma Army troops who were previously stationed in Pakokku Township of Magway Region. 

“We strongly condemn the brutal killing of civilians and vow to bring all those involved, whether directly or indirectly, in ongoing war crimes, massacres and crimes against humanity…to justice as soon as possible,” stated the NUG. 

It also alleged that Burma Army troops committed acts of sexual assault, including rape, against women during its attack on Byine Phyu village. Residents reported money and other belongings were stolen from their homes.

The British Embassy in Yangon expressed its condolences to the victims. “Our thoughts are with the families affected by the brutal killings in Sittwe,” stated the U.K. in Myanmar on June 4. It called for all civilians to be protected and for those responsible to be held accountable. 

The military regime in Naypyidaw denied its military committed a massacre in Byine Phyu, calling it propaganda. It added that the AA is deflecting from accusations that it burned down Rohingya homes and villages in northern Arakan’s Buthidaung Township last month.  

Regime spokesperson Zaw Min Tun acknowledged that the military killed three civilians, but claimed that they were shot attempting to steal weapons from Burma Army troops.  

Sittwe residents said that the Burma Army destroyed more than 250 homes in Minkantaw and Thonesaung villages of Sittwe Township on Saturday. 

The AA has taken control of all townships surrounding the state capital of Sittwe. Commander-in-chief Twan Mrat Naing warned residents there in April to evacuate before the AA seizes the city.

Ten townships in Arakan and one in southern Chinland have been brought under AA control since it launched its offensive against the military on Nov. 13. Its stated aim is to establish an autonomous state in Arakan. 

At least 268 civilians have been killed from November 13, 2023 to May 13, according to AA figures. But these could not be independently verified by DVB. 

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has called for an immediate cessation of violence in Arakan State and for all armed groups to protect civilians and allow humanitarian aid deliveries.

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