AA Denies Issuing Online Call for Arakanese Statehood

By Htet Naing Zaw 22 March 2019

NAYPYITAW—The Arakan Army (AA) has denied issuing a statement that went viral online containing a proposed timeline for Arakanese statehood.

Government officials questioned AA representatives about the statement at a meeting in Naypyitaw on Thursday between the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) and representatives of non-signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The Arakanese ethnic armed group told the officials that it did not issue the statement.

“We told them the statement that details a timeframe for establishing an Arakanese state was not issued by us,” Colonel Kyaw Han, commander of the AA’s eastern military region, told reporters.

He said the AA’s primary military goal is to establish a base in Rakhine State, despite the opposition of the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw). The Tatmadaw must accept this if it wants peace, he said.

“We are doing our duty, because only the Arakan Army can assume responsibility for the security, peace and development of the Arakanese people. And we are taking responsibility in Rakhine State,” the colonel said.

Government delegate Dr. Tin Myo Win urged the AA to take part in political dialogue instead of rising up against the government.

He justified the Tatmadaw’s military actions there, saying the government had no choice but to respond when an armed group attempts to establish a base, which he said was a threat to national security.

Since Nov. 30, clashes between the Tatmadaw and the AA in Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun and Mrauk-U townships have displaced over 10,000 people.

Thirteen police were killed and nine injured when the AA launched coordinated attacks on four police outposts in Buthidaung Township on Jan. 4, just days after it announced together with two allied groups that it would sign the NCA.

The government responded by launching counter-insurgency operations in Rakhine.

“Local people are suffering as a result. For example, Mrauk-U is a tourist spot for foreign travelers. And as the clashes have expanded to such areas, the government has had to respond accordingly,” said President’s Office director-general U Zaw Htay.

On March 15, artillery shelling damaged heritage sites in Mrauk-U, the ancient capital of the Arakanese Kingdom. Both the Tatmadaw and the AA denied responsibility.

“We said sincerely that we did not launch an attack in Mrauk-U. We called for an end to attacks on civilians, whether with artillery fire or small arms,” Colonel Kyaw Han said.

Thursday’s meeting was attended by the United Wa State Army, the Kachin Independence Organization, Mongla’s Eastern Shan State Peace and Solidarity Committee, the Shan State Progressive Party, Kokang’s Myanmar National Truth and Justice Party, the Palaung State Liberation Front, the United League of Arakan (the political wing of the AA) and the Karenni National Progressive Party.

The meeting issued a joint statement vowing to continue negotiations to de-escalate armed conflicts, to ensure nationwide peace and stability, and to heed regional development and the interests of local people, to solve political problems through political means, and to hold frequent meetings between decision-makers.

“If those points are implemented with good will by both sides, there is potential for the clashes to de-escalate. Otherwise, nothing will change,” Col. Kyaw Han told reporters.