“Now all the villagers have been killed by the military council. The women of the village have either become widows, some families have lost two or three men. We can never forget this horrific day that we saw with our own eyes.” – A woman from Byaing Phyu village who was released

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Caption - Women from Byaing Phyu village weep over the deaths of their family members

An interview with a woman from Byaing Hpyu village about the massacre in Byaing Hpyu village in Sittwe and her experiences during detention

On 29 May, military junta troops entered Byaing Hpyu village in Sut Yoe Kya Ward of Sittwe, Arakan State in large numbers. The troops blockaded the entire village and then ordered everyone – men, women, the elderly and young children – out onto the road and detained them.

The military junta troops then carried out the “Byaing Phyu village massacre” in which 48 men aged between 15 and 70 and 3 women were killed, the Arakan Army (AA) said in a statement on 2 June.

Some were released, but the military council reportedly denied them entry into the village.

Development Media Group (DMG) spoke to a woman from Byaing Phyu village, one of the residents released – about the massacre of the villagers and her experiences during detention.

Q: How did the junta troops enter the village? And what happened next?

A: The junta troops entered the village on the morning of 29 May. They told the villagers. “Nothing will happen, stay calm.” After about an hour and a half, they came back, surrounded the village, and ordered everyone out. We were told not to take everything with us. Men, women, children – everyone had to come out. Then they made us line up on the village road – the men in one line and the women and children in the other.

Then they arrested the men, made them take off their shirts, blindfolded them with the shirts and held them in the hot sun. But the women and children were kept in the shade. They did not give the men water. The men were severely beaten. This continued all day. They beat them terribly. In the hot sun, they made the men touch each other’s shoulders and walk in line. They did not beat the women and children; they also gave them water.

Q: What happened next?

A: There were about 100 soldiers. More soldiers arrived in the evening. The military vehicles entered the village one after another. Women and children were kept at the road junction in the eastern part of the village. The men were held at the western junction. We had to stay on the road that day. We couldn’t eat either. We had to spend the night on the road.

Q: Can you describe how the Byaing Phyu villagers were killed?

A: The next day (30 May), they called in the police and secured the outer perimeter of the village. That day, we were told to stay inside the houses, with around 10 people per house. We heard gunshots that day. Since we were inside, we couldn’t see anything. We couldn’t see the men that day. On the first day, we saw them getting beaten and shot at. But we don’t know how many died. Everyone stayed quiet out of fear. We heard a lot of gunshots, and screams. I assume many died with the shooting at night and during the day.

Q: What happened the next day?

A: On the third day (31 May), they called in the police and left them in the village. Of those arrested, they released around 20-30 elderly men. But not a single man aged 16, 50 or 60 was left. They all were taken away. We don’t know where they were being held. We heard a lot of gunshots. They must have killed the village men that day.

Q: We heard that three detained young women were raped? Can you tell us about that as well?

A: They took the three young women with them, supposedly to cook for them. Two were released after being raped. The other one was shot dead. We heard that the deceased was a married woman with a child. The two released wouldn’t say a word. Perhaps they are very ashamed and traumatized. People here don’t give much attention to this case because they have their own worries.

Q: How were you all released?

A: On the same day (31 May), they took us out of the village. They put all the women and children in vehicles and taken to the Wingabar Grounds in Sittwe. We were just gathered there, supposedly free to go wherever we wanted. They (the junta soldiers) took our details – where we were going, which village. There were over 300 people at the Wingabar Grounds – elderly people, women, and children.

Q: We heard that you were allowed to re-enter the village before you were being taken to the city. What did you see of the village situation?

A: Before taking us out, the police in the village told us “You can no longer stay in the village, aunties and sisters.” So they told us to take whatever belongings we could. I didn’t go; others did. They said there was nothing left in the homes – no cash, gold, valuables. They could only retrieve some clothes.

We heard all the homes had been ransacked. On the first day itself, the junta soldiers had taken all the household possessions after taking the villagers out. That day, after expelling the villagers, they entered the homes and took phones, jewelry, cash – everything. The villagers said the village roads and homes were just smeared with blood. There was a putrid smell too. We don’t know what exactly the soldiers did to the village men after killing them.

Q: What did the released men say?

A: The elderly released men told us that during the beating, one military officer said “We wanted so badly to kill you that we flew all the way here.”

Q: I there anything else you would like to add?

A: Now all the villagers have been killed by the military council. The women of the village have either become widows, some families have lost two or three men. We can never forget this horrific day that we saw with our own eyes.

Sent by Aung Htein (DMG).

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