NAYPYITAW — The ongoing clashes between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army (AA) are likely to intensify in the coming days, said Khaing Thukha, a spokesperson for the AA, alleging that the Myanmar Army recently launched a large-scale assault utilizing more than 30 battalions in Chin’s State Paletwa Township near the Myanmar-India border.
On Wednesday, he said, there were clashes in six places for the whole day and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) used two helicopters to attack.
“Fierce clashes are ongoing in Paletwa at the border of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Clashes are quite fierce, and the Tatmadaw suffered casualties,” Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.
“If they continue fighting like this, we will inevitably have to defend ourselves, and the clashes will only intensify,” he added.
The AA has suffered at least five casualties and some injuries in clashes that broke out in early November, said Khaing Thukha, suggesting that the Tatmadaw might have suffered many more casualties and injuries.
He refused to disclose, for security reasons, when the AA started its military activities in Paletwa.
Around 350 Paletwa locals fled across the border to India out of fear after the Tatmadaw bombed AA troops on Wednesday evening, said U Pinnya Jota, a Buddhist monk living in India.
The monk told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, there are now around 2,000 Paletwa residents taking shelter at the border in India including some 1,500 people who fled last week.
“Arakanese villages are providing as much aid as they can. The Indian government has given some rice to them. Around 350 people arrived yesterday [Nov. 29]. They fled after [the Tatmadaw] bombed, around 4:30 p.m. yesterday,” said U Pinnya Jota.
Military leaders have repeatedly said that the Tatmadaw would not hold peace talks with the AA unless it disarmed because it was established only after Myanmar had elected a quasi-civilian government, under former President U Thein Sen in 2011. [The AA, which took part in fighting by allying with Kachin, Ta’ang and Kokang troops in the Kachin Independence Army controlled areas in northern and northeastern Myanmar, has said its troops have been mobilized since 2009.]
Locals speculated that the Tatmadaw’s ongoing attacks were retaliation after it lost 11 troops—two officers and nine other ranks—in an AA ambush on Nov. 18 in Chin State’s Paletwa Township.
According to the AA, clashes have been ongoing near Myeik Wa, [a border village near India], since Nov. 25, and there were also clashes at the triangle area at the border of Myanmar, Bangladesh and India on Wednesday.
The AA said it seized two 60 mm launchers, 70 pieces of 60 mm mortar shells, some ammunition and military equipment [of the Tatmadaw] in clashes on Wednesday.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.