Military and Arakan Army ceasefire at risk after weekend clashes in Myanmar

Sources say the military attacked AA bases twice after a year of relative calm.
2022.02.07
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Military and Arakan Army ceasefire at risk after weekend clashes in Myanmar Members of the Arakan Army in an undated photo.
AA

Fighting between junta troops and members of the Arakan Army (AA) has resumed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for the first time in more than a year after the military attacked two of the ethnic army’s bases over the weekend, an AA official source said Monday.

A resident of Rakhine’s Maungdaw township told RFA’s Myanmar Service on condition of anonymity that the two sides had engaged in “intense fighting” on Feb. 4 and 6 in the vicinity of Latpan mountain near Metike village, around 30 miles from the seat of the township.

“We heard blasts and the firing of both heavy and light artillery, coming from around five or six miles from the Taman Thar area where we live,” he said, adding that the blasts appeared to originate from the foot of the mountain.

Another resident of the conflict area, who also declined to be named, said the fighting on Feb. 6 was “vicious” and lasted more than three hours.

“I heard three artillery blasts first and after an hour I heard gunfire. I couldn’t see the fighting, but it came from the mountain west of our village,” he said.

Residents of the township said they are now too worried to enter the nearby woods to collect things they need and fear that the fighting will spread to their villages. The AA agreed to a ceasefire with Myanmar’s military in late 2020 after around two years of intensive fighting.

AA spokesperson Khine Thukha told RFA that the fighting over the weekend erupted after the military launched offensives on Arakan Army bases.

On Feb. 4, a quadrant from the military’s Light Infantry Battalion No. 352 entered an AA base area and shot and killed AA fighters, he said. Two days later, fighting resumed when military troops tried to secure the Latpan mountain area, prompting AA fighters to engage, he said. The fighting resulted in causalities on the military side.

Khine Thukha did not provide details on the number of causalities involved in the two incidents.

“Whether the fighting will continue or spread out to other areas depends on the military’s activities,” he said. “We will respond to their actions as necessary.”

Reports ‘under investigation’

When contacted by RFA on Monday, junta spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed the fighting in Rakhine State on Feb. 4, but said the military was uncertain if the fighting involved the AA. The military took control of Myanmar’s government in a Feb. 2, 2021, coup.

“There was fighting in the Maungdaw area. It is complicated because the AA said the fighting was with their troops, but we don’t know how the AA got into the Maungdaw region,” he said. “The AA was not active in these areas. It is possible. We are still investigating.”

Zaw Min Tun said there had been an exchange of gunfire between border guard forces and the outlawed Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Feb. 4 after the group carried out a mine attack, injuring some of the soldiers.

ARSA, which has joined Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government and other armed ethnic groups in fighting the junta, has been moving aggressively to establish control over sprawling refugee camps in Bangladesh, where three-quarters of a million ethnic Rohingya fled during a crackdown by Myanmar’s military in 2017. The crackdown came in response to ARSA’s attack on Rakhine police posts.

Residents of Maungdaw told RFA last month that ARSA appeared to be taking advantage of the relative calm of the ceasefire between the military and the AA. In November, clashes broke out between ARSA and the military in Maungdaw. Last month, a man from the township’s Khonedaing village was injured when ARSA gunmen opened fire on a group of 20 people who had gone to collect bamboo in the jungle.

Phae Than, a former lawmaker for neighboring Myaebon township, told RFA that if reports of the fighting between the military and the AA are true and the two sides do not hold a dialogue, clashes are likely to continue.

“If they launch attacks, the other side will respond, no matter where it is. That’s why they need to maintain communication,” he said. “If they could come to a ceasefire through mutual understanding, why can’t it continue? It is imperative to find a solution through dialogue.”

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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