Two Arakan Army members have been killed and at least four wounded in three weeks of clashes with the Myanmar Army in Paletwa and Buthidaung townships, the armed ethnic group said.
The fighting has forced at least 600 local people to flee, as the Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, has used helicopters and artillery to conduct operations in villages and mountains in the area.
Khine Thu Kha, a spokesperson for AA based in India, told The Irrawaddy that fighting continued today in Buthidaung Township near the border with Bangladesh. Two AA members had been killed since fighting broke out on Nov. 1, he said.
“One was killed on Nov. 12 and the other on Nov. 18. We have four to six injured personnel, but their wounds are minor,” Khine Thu Kha said.
One of the fatalities occurred in Paletwa, in Chin State, and the other in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township on the border with Bangladesh, he said.
The Tatmadaw has sustained heavy casualties in the fighting. Yesterday its Infantry Battalion 542 based in Kyaukphyu Township, Rakhine State, used two helicopters to attack AA positions, Khine Thu Kha said.
On Nov. 19, the AA complained that the Myanmar Army’s use of helicopters against it was illegal, but President’s Office director U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy that the Tatmadaw had the right to use air power under the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. Furthermore, the Tatmadaw was not required to seek authorization from the President’s Office to use air power, he added.
In a statement issued today, the AA claimed to have killed at least six Myanmar Army troops on Nov. 20 and seized ammunition and military equipment. The Defense Ministry made no mention of any such clash involving the Myanmar Army, however.
The Myanmar Army suffered heavy casualties in fighting near the border with Arakan on Nov. 8, as reported by the AA.
Retired Myanmar Army Lt-Gen Thaung Aye, a Lower House lawmaker, later confirmed that 11 government troops were killed and 14 injured when the AA ambushed the military boat they were traveling in.
The Tatmadaw vowed a thorough response to the AA attack after the Ministry of Defense reported that one civilian had been killed and another wounded in the Nov. 8 attack. That report did not state how many troops were killed, however.
“[The Tatmadaw] vowed to eliminate our side, but we will do our best to defend ourselves,” said Khine Thu Kha.
AA troops are based in Laiza, at the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army. However, since 2014 they have been operating in the border area at Paletwa.
The AA has continued to operate out of parts of Arakan near Bangladesh despite the Myanmar Army’s efforts to oust it from these areas.
“As an army we have the support of our people. It should not be surprising that we are returning to our land. The question is why the Myanmar Army remained on our land when our people don’t support them,” Khine Thu Kha said.