SITTWE, Rakhine State—The Arakan Army (AA) shelled Artillery Battalion 337 of the Myanmar military in Kan Sauk in Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township early Wednesday morning.
“It was around 4 a.m. and we heard sounds of artillery strikes and later shooting from small weapons. We heard an exchange of fire,” a local Kan Sauk resident told The Irrawaddy.
Colonel Win Zaw Oo, a spokesperson for the Myanmar military’s Western Command, told The Irrawaddy that the two sides exchanged fire following the attacks by the AA.
“[The AA] came and attacked with a 60 mm rocket launcher. They fired three or four rockets. As they came and attacked, we had to return fire,” Col. Win Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy. “[The clash] took place only for a few minutes. They had provoked us.”
AA spokesperson Khaing Thuka said the ethnic armed group launched the attack in retaliation for attacks by the Myanmar military’s artillery battalions on civilian targets.
“We made a warning attack with rockets on the Kan Sauk-based artillery battalion because the artillery battalions have continuously opened fire on villages and civilian targets in a reckless and unlawful manner,” Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.
Col. Win Zaw Oo questioned the AA’s claims.
“The AA always says that they have to return fire to defend themselves against the Tatmadaw’s attacks. They came and attacked the artillery battalion: is this defensive or offensive? Their statements are contradictory,” the spokesman said.
A 70-year-old man and a younger man in a nearby village were injured in the artillery explosions and are receiving treatment at a local hospital.
Myanmar military Light Infantry Battalion 539 and Artillery Battalion 377 are based at the foot of the Kan Sauk mountain range near Kan Sauk village. The two battalions have reportedly provided support to other Myanmar military troops in clashes with the AA in the area.
Clashes broke out between the Myanmar military and the AA in November 2018 and tensions remain high despite five rounds of peace talks between the government’s Peace Commission and the ethnic armed group since January.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko