AA Issues Threatening Letters to Rakhine Police, Village Head

By Moe Myint 22 December 2018

YANGON— The Arakan Army (AA) sent warning letters, each accompanied by a bullet round and the official AA stamp, warning the recipients against disturbing those who are “implementing the way of Rakhita,” a phrase which was coined by the political wing of the AA, the United League for Arakan.

One letter was sent each to the head of a local police station in Buthidaung Township, the Nwar Yon Taung village administrator and a well-connected timber businessman on Friday. The letters said that if someone disrupts their movement, the AA will decisively take action against them.

The Irrawaddy phoned one of the letter recipients on Saturday but the mobile phone was switched off.

The warnings come just days after reports from locals that a Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) helicopter launched hellfire missiles and machine gun attacks above a village towards the densely forested mountain range where Arakan Army (AA) fighters are currently based in northern Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township, causing the the entire village of Chin Ma Won Zaung to flee to neighboring Thalu Chaung Village on Wednesday.

U Kyaw San Tin, a local from Thalu Chaung Village, said that a group of 84 people from Chin Ma Won Zaung Village are currently sheltering at Thalu Chaung Monastery. He said that as a helicopter opened fire into the forest, a number of empty rounds poured down onto the village and some displaced villagers found a bullet belt which had fallen from the helicopter.

A relief worker holds the bullet belt that fell from a Tatmadaw helicopter over Thalu Chaung Village in Northern Rakhine State on Tuesday, December 18, 2018. / Zaw Win / Facebook

Despite Myanmar President Office’s spokesman U Zaw Htay stating on Friday at the weekly press briefing that the army did not use helicopter attacks in fighting with the AA in northern Rakhine, locals who escaped the conflict zone were able to show photo evidence of the bullet belt which fell from the helicopter.

A local social worker, Ko Zaw Win from Kyauktaw Township, who recently went to the conflict area to carry out relief efforts said that despite the Tatmadaw’s Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s announcement that they will halt all military operations in five military commands for four months, fighting continued to take place in northern Rakhine as of Saturday. On Saturday morning, the army’s artillery unit fired serial artillery shells, some of which are said to have landed on Panyar Wa Village.

Ko Zaw Win said, “Villagers from Pa Nyar Wa also fled to other locations. Most of them are daily laborers and rely on farming. As the fighting is fierce there, they cannot tend their cattle.”

According to him, about 180 displaced people sought shelter in Thalu Chaung Village yesterday. U Kyaw San Tin also said that a Tatmadaw artillery unit based one mile away from his village fired heavy artillery into the forest constantly on Saturday. Some women and children, feeling threatened by the loud explosions, had already left the village for safer places while men remain in the village in order to maintain their properties.

The AA announced this morning via their official Facebook page that the Tatmadaw launched artillery fire near Pa Nyar Wa and Maung Hnama villages today and fighting has intensified since Dec. 18. The military did not release any update about the skirmishes in northern Rakhine State.

With armed conflicts flaring up in Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun and Kyauktaw townships, the number of displaced persons has climbed drastically. U Khine Kaung San, founder of Wunlark Foundation, estimates around 800 displaced villagers are sheltering in neighboring villages in different townships and local relief groups are overseeing humanitarian assistance for the internally displaced persons.

In Rathedaung Township, villagers have been ordered by local authorities to display their family registration documents on the front of their houses in preparation for surprise headcounts. Some local observers are speculating that with the Tatmadaw’s Western Commend on high alert, fighting could further intensify between the AA and government troops on the ground.