RANGOON — A spokesperson for the Arakan Army claimed Friday that the ethnic armed group destroyed two vehicles belonging to Burma’s military using rocket-propelled grenades, killing some 30 soldiers from the Buthidaung-based Light Infantry Battalion No. 565 in the attack.
The strike, according to Khine Thu Kha of the Arakan Army, occurred on Thursday evening near Wanet Yon village, about 18 miles northeast of Buthidaung town in Arakan State.
Khine Thu Kha said his group had succeeded in ambushing the convoy of government troops. Contacted by The Irrawaddy on Friday, a Burma Army communications officer declined to comment on the reported clash.
The Arakan Army spokesman predicted Friday that “fighting would intensify” if, as expected, the Burma Army dispatched reinforcements to the area.
Khine Thu Kha estimated that about 60 locals in Arakan State have been arrested on suspected ties to the Arakan Army since December, when fighting between government troops and the ethnic rebel group first kicked off in Kyauktaw Township. He admitted that some of those detained had links to the Arakan Army, but maintained that the majority were being unjustly held.
The Arakan Army previously claimed that fighting had killed more than 100 government troops as of Jan. 8, a figure that could not be independently confirmed by The Irrawaddy. While detailed Burma Army accounts of its clashes with the country’s ethnic armed rebel groups are infrequent, the military did acknowledge the death of a commander and “several” other personnel from its side in January.
In that same official announcement, also on Jan. 8 as fighting continued in western Burma, the military said it had seized the bodies of three dead Arakan Army soldiers and vowed to completely “remove” the ethnic rebel group from Arakan State.