Deadly junta shelling forces mass exodus from Myanmar’s historic Mrauk-U, Rakhine

Tens of thousands of people have fled Mrauk-U, the ancient capital of Rakhine, after indiscriminate junta shelling killed at least three people and seriously injured a five-year-old girl on Sunday, local residents and volunteers said, The Irrawaddy reports.

The 700-year-old town has been under relentless junta bombardment since the Arakan Army launched predawn attacks on a regime base and police station near its entrance on Sunday, Mrauk-U residents told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

“A five-year-old girl lost one of her arms and her parents were killed on the spot when their motorbike was hit by a junta shell as they fled to a safe place. Another man was also killed by shelling,” a volunteer in Mrauk-U town said.

Shells landed on six residential areas in Mrauk-U town including a displacement camp and the Mrauk-U archaeological museum, which houses ancient artifacts and stone inscriptions of the first Arakanese Kingdom, he added.

“We are unable to examine the extent of damage to the museum as no one dares to go inside for fear of residual explosives and ongoing shelling.”

Junta Light Infantry Divisions 540, 377 and 378 are responsible for the indiscriminate shelling, according to Mrauk-U volunteers and residents.

Nearly 1,200 people were evacuated from the Myatasuang displacement camp in Mrauk-U on Monday after shells exploded in its compound and nearby Sin Cha Seik village, the abbot of Myatasaung said.

“Shells landed inside the camp on Sunday afternoon and evening, injuring a male resident. We relocated around 1,200 displaced people from the camp, but around 100 people and monks are still there,” the abbot said.

The town was deserted and silent on Monday except for the sound of explosions from junta shelling, volunteers said.

“Nearly two-thirds of residents have fled their homes. Only a few people remain to look after their houses,” a volunteer said.

Mrauk-U Township is home to over 200,000 people, according to a 2019 census conducted under the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government. Mrauk-U volunteers say the town has over 60,000 residents.

A lack of transport triggered by fuel shortages is hindering evacuation efforts, according to volunteers.

“All the shops are closed and we can’t buy anything. We have just a little food left. We will have to walk at least two hours to reach the nearest village to buy food,” a volunteer said.

Intense fighting has been ongoing in the Rakhine townships of Pauktaw, Minbya, Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Mrauk-U and Ramree since November 13, as part of the anti-regime Operation 1027 offensive launched by the Brotherhood Alliance on October 27. The alliance’s Arakan Army has so far seized over 140 junta outposts and camps in northern Rakhine State.

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