Myanmar’s military reported that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked a police vehicle with mines Monday in Rakhine state’s Maungdaw township, repeating an earlier claim that the Muslim Rohingya militant group was working with the ethnic Rakhine rebel Arakan Army (AA).
Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun told RFA’s Myanmar Service that ARSA militants used a home-made mine on a police van traveling from the Taung Pyo, Nga Khu Ya and Kyaing Chaung village areas of Maungdaw township to the Kyaingchaung area police station.
A video of the attack was posted Tuesday on ARSA’s Facebook page and has since spread on social media platforms.
The spokesman said that the attack, which injured the driver of the vehicle, was not the only explosion in the area. Now, Myanmar’s military is fighting on two battle fronts, one with the AA, and the other with ARSA, he said.
“What we mainly found is two attacks by mines. There were two explosions south of Maungdaw. In addition there was the attack on the police vehicle and we now have to watch out on both sides, as ARSA came in amid an [already] unstable situation,” said Zaw Min Tun.
He also claimed to have seen reports that ARSA and the AA have been coordinating their efforts in Bangladesh—repeating a Myanmar military assertion first made in January that drew swift rebuttals from the AA and from Bangladesh.
ARSA is a Muslim militant group that in August 2017 launched deadly assaults on 30 police outposts and an army base in northern Rakhine state, triggering a brutal military crackdown during which thousands were killed and some 740,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh.
Spokesman Khine Thu Kha of AA, which has been fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhines in the state, denied any connection with ARSA.
“We’ve already explained to the public and international community that we have no relationship [with ARSA] at all. Our leader also stated that,” he said.
The AA spokesperson said that the suggested connection was a ploy to damage the AA’s reputation.
“They’re doing it with an intention. They try to portray the Arakan Army as a terror organization with these fabrications.”
Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, upon hearing the AA’s denial, said, “If it’s fabricated, who would shoot your own people in battle? Bullets have no eyes and they could hit anywhere.”
“If it’s fabricated as they claim, we would be hurting ourselves. No one would harm themselves. [Myanmar’s military] has no such record [of attacking innocents to blame their enemies,]” he said, without directly addressing the AA’s complaint.
In the areas where the mines exploded, the military has increased security, the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the military also reported that a member of the AA was arrested after a shootout near Kaigyi Village on the road near the Maungdaw–Angu highway on Sunday evening.
After an AA attack on police outposts in northern Rakhine killed 13 officers in early January, Myanmar’s government labeled it a terrorist group and instructed its forces to destroy it.
Since then, the two sides have clashed more than 100 times, leaving some 60 AA soldiers, 30 policemen, and a dozen civilians dead. The Myanmar military has yet to reveal its casualties.
Reported by Aung Thein Kha for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Nandar Chann. Written in English by Eugene Whong.