Myanmar military trucks hit landmines in troubled Rakhine; one injured

YANGON (Reuters) - One person was injured when military trucks hit landmines in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State this week, state media said on Friday, amid ethnic tension following an army crackdown that sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing.

More than 600,000 of the refugees have entered neighboring Bangladesh since Aug. 25 attacks by Rohingya militants sparked the army operation. Killings, arson and rape carried out by troops and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist mobs since then amount to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, the United Nations says.

Three landmine blasts caused extensive damage to three military trucks in Rakhine’s central Minbya township on Wednesday morning, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

The landmines were “apparently targeting” army convoys, it added.

Later that day, another landmine exploded near the village of Vethali in central Rakhine as seven military trucks passed, injuring one pedestrian but causing no damage to the vehicles, the paper said.

It was not clear who was responsible for the attacks. Several landmine explosions were reported near the area this year.

United Nations staff and aid workers have said they fear violence in northern Rakhine could spread to new areas as Buddhist villagers in more peaceful areas enforce a system of local apartheid that punishes people trading with minority Muslims.

Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar see Rohingya Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many of the Rohingya can trace family for generations.

After the August attacks on police posts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which the government has declared a terrorist organization, security forces unleashed a brutal counteroffensive in Muslim-majority northern Rakhine.

Even though Myanmar says military operations ceased on Sept. 5, hundreds of refugees have continued to cross the Naf river separating Rakhine and Bangladesh in recent weeks.

Separately, Myanmar security forces have arrested 19 men suspected of involvement in the August attacks and charged them under the anti-terrorism law, the newspaper said on Friday.

Reporting by Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Navesh Chitrakar in COX’S BAZAR; Editing by Clarence Fernandez