Arakan Army vows to fight for total control of Myanmar’s Rakhine state

The group said a ceasefire with the military in Shan state has no bearing on its activities in Rakhine.
By RFA Burmese
Arakan Army vows to fight for total control of Myanmar’s Rakhine state An armored vehicle belonging to Myanmar junta troops burns after Arakan Army forces attacked a column that left Sittwe in Rakhine state on Feb. 28, 2024.
Image from AA Info Desk video

The ethnic Arakan Army won’t lay down arms until it has liberated all of western Myanmar’s Rakhine state from military rule, an official said Monday.

The Arakan Army, or AA, has captured six townships in Rakhine, and a seventh in neighboring Chin state, since it ended a ceasefire agreement in November that had been in place since the military seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat. Its fighters are in the midst of an offensive against junta troops in five other Rakhine townships.

Speaking at an online news conference on Monday, AA spokesman Khaing Thu Kha said his group will continue to fight until it has taken over the entirety of the state for the ethnic Rakhine people.

“The goal of the Arakan Army is to fight for the liberation of the entirety of Rakhine state,” he said. “We [ethnic Rakhines] will establish the future of Arakan state through full self-determination.”

Khaing Thu Kha said that the AA is not seeking independence and instead will allow the Rakhine people to “create their own future within Myanmar,” adding that they won’t accept a political status for the state “lower than confederate.”

The AA, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army together make up the ethnic Three Brotherhood Alliance, which in October launched an offensive known as Operation 1027 against the military in northern Shan state, which borders China.

The alliance captured 16 cities in Shan state, including Muse and Chinshwehaw, before agreeing to a ceasefire in China-brokered talks with junta representatives on Jan. 11. An ex-military official later said it was not sustainable and less than a week after the agreement, both sides were accused of violating it in a skirmish.

Last week, the two sides met again in the Chinese city of Kunming for talks that focused on reopening parts of the border with China that had been shut down during the fighting and preserving the ceasefire.

On Monday, AA Deputy Chief Nyo Tun Aung made clear that the ceasefire in northern Shan state, known as the Haigeng agreement, has no bearing on his group’s activities in Rakhine state.

“At the moment, we are only discussing the Haigeng agreement, which is concerned only with the AA in northern Shan state, not with our troops in Rakhine state,” he said.

Attempts by RFA Burmese to contact junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment on the AA statements went unanswered Monday.

‘They won’t get another chance’

Since ending the ceasefire in Rakhine state, the AA has captured the townships of Pauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Myaybon, and Taungpyo, as well as Paletwa township in Chin state. The group is fighting for control of Ponnagyun, Ramree, Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships in Rakhine.

Arakan Army forces display weapons seized after they captured a junta military camp in Pe Yan Tuang village, Maungdaw township, Rakhine state, on Feb. 19, 2024. (AA Info Desk)
Arakan Army forces display weapons seized after they captured a junta military camp in Pe Yan Tuang village, Maungdaw township, Rakhine state, on Feb. 19, 2024. (AA Info Desk)

A former military officer said that if the AA agrees to stop fighting in Rakhine, it won’t be able to capture Kyaukphyu township’s strategic sea coast or the state capital, Sittwe.

“They won’t get another chance to control these areas ... so the AA has vowed to continue its offensives,” said the former officer, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity due to security concerns. “The junta will work hard to keep these areas, so the AA in northern Shan state will likely join the fighting in Rakhine.”

In the three months of fighting in Rakhine state, junta artillery attacks and small arms fire has killed 111 civilians and injured another 357, according to the AA. The group said that nearly 300,000 people have fled their homes due to the conflict. 

A resident of the state told RFA that ethnic Rakhines are willing to make sacrifices for a chance at true autonomy in Myanmar.

“The AA will win the conflict, but there will be loss of life,” he acknowledged. “[Ethnic Rakhines] have high expectations for the AA. There is a sense that we now have the best chance to determine our own future for our people.”

At a ceremony in the capital Naypyidaw on Feb. 13, junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said he will only pursue peace in Myanmar according to the 2008 military-drafted constitution and would never acquiesce to demands made by the armed resistance.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


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