Fighting displaces 500 people in Rakhine
CLASHES between the Tatmadaw (military) and Arakan Army (AA) have forced more than 500 people to flee their homes in northern Rakhine State.
The AA says the fighting has been intense, with the military deploying heavy weapons and aircraft, including helicopters.
“Since November 29, there have been more than 40 clashes between the Tatmadaw and AA in Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun and Kyauktaw townships in northern Rakhine State,” said AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha.
On December 6, an explosion along Buthedaung-maungdaw road killed two people. According to the Thingaha Kanlat Rakhita Aid Association, there are more than 100 refugees in Sai Din village in Buthidaung, and 337 in Ponnagyun.
The military has set up checkpoints along the Sittwe-kyauktaw-myauk-u road, said U Ann Thar Gyi, chair of the association. “The inspections have been carried out before, but now they are more frequent due to the renewed fighting,” he said, adding that food, blankets and clothes are needed for the refugees.
In a December 6 announcement from the Office of the Commander-inchief of Defence Services, the military said the fighting began with an attack on a military patrol near the Bangladesh border.
The military has repeatedly referred to the AA as an insurgent group.
The AA, together with its allies the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army in the Northern Alliance, has announced its willingness to cooperate politically and called for military actions to cease.
The government’s Peace Commission has welcomed the announcement and said it will work with the alliance on a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
According to ethnic affairs expert U Maung Maung Soe, the fighting is over control of territory and, following a meeting between the alliance and the government on December 12, prospects improved for a ceasefire.
The AA, formed in 2009, hasn’t signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. In 2015, the group became active in Rakhine, Chin State and along the Bangladesh border.