Clashes between government troops and the ethnic Arakan Army in three townships in Myanmar’s war-stricken western region on Wednesday left several casualties and wounded soldiers on both sides, though the opponents dispute the exact numbers.
More than 20 Myanmar soldiers and four Arakan Army (AA) soldiers were killed in three skirmishes in Kyauktaw and Rathedaung townships in Rakhine state and in Paletwa township in Chin state, AA spokesman Khine Thukha said.
“All in all, about 25 soldiers were killed and 30 were injured in the three battles on Aug. 7,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “On our side, we lost four soldiers.”
He also said that many villagers were missing, and some had been arrested bu Myanmar soldiers.
AA commandos ambushed a Myanmar army regiment of about 200 soldiers at 8:10 a.m. north of Kyauktaw’s Tinma village during which about 15 government soldiers were killed and many others injured, Khine Thukha said.
A second shorter clash took place in neighboring Rathedaung township east of Kyauktan village, from which government soldiers had retreated, and a third battle against the Myanmar Army’s 77th Light Infantry Division occurred in Paletwa township on the border between Rakhine and Chin states, he said.
Khine Thukha said he believes there will be more battles in the coming days because the Myanmar military has sent large reinforcements to Paletwa township.
Colonel Win Zaw Oo, spokesman for the military’s Western Command responsible for Rakhine state, disputed the number of casualties.
“It’s true there were battles in northern Paletwa as well as in the area near Tinma village in Kyauktaw township,” he told RFA. “But the number of fatalities was not as high as 20. There could be injuries since it was an armed engagement.”
He also raised questions about the identities of the missing persons and said the Myanmar military had made no arrests of civilians suspect of having ties to the AA during the hostilities.
“We don’t know if the persons missing are rebels or civilians,” he said. “Anyway, we didn’t make any arrests.”
Fighting between Myanmar forces and the AA, an ethnic Rakhine military group seeking greater autonomy in Rakhine state, escalated in the region in late 2018 and has displaced tens of thousands of civilians.
Reported by Nayrein Kyaw for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.