AA Chief Vows to Set Up HQ in Rakhine State Soon

By Moe Myint 13 February 2019

YANGON—Amid intense fighting between government troops and the Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine, the armed group’s chief, Major-General Tun Myat Naing, told the Arakanese public that the group will build a temporary headquarters in Rakhine State very soon.

The Irrawaddy saw a video message from the AA chief in the Arakanese language issued on Feb. 10. In it, he repeatedly urged Arakanese who live abroad to return to Rakhine State in order to take part in what he said was a turning point in the history of the region. It is the second such video issued by the group this month; AA deputy chief Brigadier-General Nyo Tun Aung released one last week.

Several sources close to the AA confirmed the authenticity of the AA chief’s video message. In the video, he is seen telling an audience of villagers that the current battle against government troops in Rakhine State is not just an armed conflict between the AA and the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw), but a struggle between the Arakanese people as a whole and the country’s military.

He said, “I absolutely believe that the Arakanese public and the AA stand side by side. We have also frequently said that the government military is fighting against the whole Arakanese public.”

Maj-Gen. Tun Myat Naing said he suggested Arakanese return to Rakhine because once, many Arakanese went to other states or foreign countries to join in armed revolution. He said that era was over now because the AA’s battlefield commanders and its supporters would recruit interested members. The AA chief promised they will fight until they achieve their ultimate goal.

“If you are interested in being a AA soldier, you don’t need to travel Karen state. Just go back to your homes and enquire a bit about the AA,” he said, adding, “The world-famous AK assault rifles, brand new AK firearms are waiting for you. Just come and join, OK?”

In the video, the Arakanese audience listening to his speech responds “Yes!” in unison. He appealed to women and disabled persons, explaining that carrying a gun in battle is not the only way to support revolution, and there are many different ways to revolt nowadays. For instance, acting as an informant on the ground is also a way of being a revolutionary, he said.

“Guns do not discriminate between men and women. All you need to do is just squeeze your finger,” said Maj-Gen. Tun Myat Naing.

He asked the Arakanese public whether they were willing to join the AA this month and then instantly about 100 villagers in the audience raised their hands. He reminded them that a real battle is harder than they can imagine, and that there is a strong possibility of them dying or being wounded during the fighting. It is a tough journey, he said, but Arakanese need to sacrifice for a brighter future by taking action with their own hands for the sake of the next generation.

Ethnic armed affairs analyst U Maung Maung Soe commented that the AA’s headquarters in N. Rakhine State could be a part of its “2020 Arakan Dream”. By analyzing the AA’s ambushes over the past few weeks, one could see that the conflict region has apparently broadened, and the AA had even attacked military columns where the Western Command of the Myanmar Army is based in Ann Township this month.

He pointed out that most of northern Rakhine State’s townships in rural areas are under the control of the AA. U Maung Maung Soe said that looking at the number of clashes involving the AA, and their movements, the AA appeared to have a significant number of troops.

He said, “The AA has been trying to get a stronghold in Rakhine State since its establishment and they will probably stage a series of offensives against Army troops and then enter politics in 2020.”

Another political analyst, Ko Wong Aung, also concluded that the AA has been pragmatically and consistently implementing its dream on the ground both politically and militarily. The armed conflict in Rakhine State could even have major political consequences in near future, he said, as the AA and the Arakanese are now in solidarity. Based on the AA chief’s message, he remarked that the government should reconsider its perspective on the AA. Failure to do so could see the area become a failed state, he said.

He urged all sectors of society—including the legislature, the military and the National League for Democracy-led government—to carry out a holistic approach to Rakhine, rather than working separately.

“I think they should seriously consider starting now. This is a very important time for the government,” said Ko Wong Aung.