Yangon: The widow of a man shot dead in military custody in Myanmar’s Rakhine state said her husband died “for no reason”, speaking after the army killed six men on suspicion of being rebels in the restive region.
Escalating violence between the military and the Arakan Army (AA) — who are battling for more autonomy for the state’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community — has forced more than 30,000 people from their homes in the area in recent months.
The state was also the scene of a brutal military crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017, branded as “genocide” by UN investigators.
Thousands of troops have been redeployed to the impoverished state, and on Thursday the army said it killed six men on suspicion of being AA rebels after rounding up 275 men in a school in Rathedaung township.
The wife of 45-year-old Tun Shwe Win said her husband was among the dead.
“My husband and the others were killed for no reason,” Ma Nge told AFP by phone Friday, her voice shaking.
Army spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun admitted the deaths to AFP, claiming the men had tried to attack troops and “grab weapons”.
Eight others were injured in the shooting, he added.
The unrest started Tuesday when soldiers raided the village, separating all men aged between 15 and 50 before interrogating them.
Families of those killed told AFP the six bodies were placed in the open in front of the school under a sweltering sun.
It was not until Friday that relatives were allowed to bury the dead.
Several bloodied victims were treated at a hospital in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe on Thursday evening, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
Zaw Min Tun told AFP “more than 120” people were released late Thursday, with around 130 still in detention.
“The rest are still held on suspicion of being AA,” he said.
One man released Thursday night by security forces said the detainees were not mistreated.
“I just want the war to end and everyone released,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The killings came after the deaths in April of three other ethnic Rakhine men in army custody.
AA spokesman Khine Thu Kha denied any of the men were linked to the armed group, calling the accusation “baseless” and adding that his group were open to peace talks with the government.
Myanmar’s army this week extended a ceasefire with armed groups elsewhere in the country for another two months.
But the truce omits Rakhine, where rights groups say the military is acting with “total impunity”.