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Myanmar junta uses pregnant women and monks as human shields

Nearly 100 civilians were caught in a battle in western Myanmar on Tuesday, locals told Radio Free Asia. As fighting in Rakhine state between the Arakan Army and junta forces continues over the disputed town of Pauktaw, residents report an increase in abductions and injuries across the region.  

Junta forces abducted nearly 100 people, including monks, the elderly, children and pregnant women in Pauktaw to use as human shields.

The civilians were abducted on Nov. 16 when the Arakan Army captured Pauktaw’s police station, which was previously occupied by junta troops. In retaliation, the regime attacked the coastal area by firing weaponry from navy ships and aircraft. 

By the following week, the junta army and police had re-captured Pauktaw and were patrolling neighborhoods. 

The Arakan Army seized control of the city again on Tuesday and rescued the captured civilians, according to a statement the group released. It also stated the regime was frequently using heavy artillery and launching rockets from ships and by aircraft. 

The junta stated it had captured Pauktaw before Tuesday, but an announcement by junta spokesman Maj. Gen Zaw Min Tun in military-controlled newspapers did not say anything about the arrested people.

Fighting between the two groups is also affecting civilians in the state’s northeast. On Monday evening in Paletwa township on the Chin state border, eight civilians, including five children, were injured in a junta airstrike. 

Some of the children are in a critical condition after they were struck by bomb shrapnel while bathing in a creek, said a woman from Mee Zar village, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

“The children were hit when they came back from bathing in the creek down from the village. The adults were hit when they went to pick things up,” she said.

“I heard that the injured are in a critical condition. At the moment, we’re hiding when we hear the sound of the plane. I am still afraid it will come again.”

All eight victims are currently receiving medical treatment at Mee Zar District Hospital.

RFA contacted Chin state’s junta spokesperson Kyaw Soe Win by phone regarding the aerial bombardment, but he did not respond by the time of publication.

Mee Zar village is about 10 kilometers (six miles) away from Paletwa township’s Hta Run Aing village, where another clash between the junta army and Arakan Army erupted, locals said.

On Monday evening, a Christian church in Matupi township’s Lalengpi town was destroyed during the junta’s airstrike, according to the locals.

Eleven residents, including eight children, were killed during an aerial bombardment on Vuilu village in Matupi township on the night of Nov. 15. 

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.