Arakan Army Claims It Killed 3 Tatmadaw Soldiers in Remote Clash

By Moe Myint 23 November 2018

YANGON—Three government soldiers were reportedly killed on Thursday during fighting with the Arakan Army (AA) in an area between northern Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township and Chin State’s Paletwa Township.

The fighting coincided with the Tazaungmone Festival, also known as the Festival of Lights, which marks the full-moon day in Tazaungmone, the eighth month in the traditional Myanmar calendar.

From its headquarters in Kachin State’s Laiza, the AA reported the skirmish via its official Facebook page. It said the fighting broke out on Thursday afternoon. Citing witness accounts, the AA said three soldiers of the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) had been killed and that one of its own fighters was wounded. It said the fighting erupted when an active AA frontline column unexpectedly encountered government troops near where the borders of Myanmar, Bangladesh and India meet.

A resident of Buthidaung Township told The Irrawaddy that a major from the Tatmadaw’s Buthidaung battalion was killed and that his body had been evacuated by helicopter yesterday. He also claimed that at least a dozen AA rebels were killed.

The AA’s statement did not elaborate on the cause of the clash; it said simply that the Tatmadaw commonly launches offensives against it at the end of the monsoon season. The military had not released any casualty figures via its website as of Friday. The Irrawaddy was unable to reach an Army spokesman for comment on Friday.

Ko Kyaw Aung, a member of an ethnic Chin charity group from Paletwa Township, said his group had heard about the renewed clashes from villagers, but said he did not have updated information because the area was outside telecom network coverage and was not linked to urban areas by a sealed road. The village nearest the fighting is a 10-hour boat ride from Paletwa. Despite occasional fighting in the region, not a single villager had sought refuge in the downtown area of Paletwa so far, he said.

Asked by The Irrawaddy whether the recent flare-ups in fighting were a sign that the AA had established a strong foothold in the Paletwa region, he said, “I am not a military expert but we can obviously see that many clashes are occurring in various locations in a single day.”

There had been no tightening of security downtown, Ko Kyaw Aung said, but military officers were checking the IDs of passengers on boats bound for the upper Paletwa region.

The AA and the Tatmadaw have clashed on numerous occasions in recent months. In October, the AA even announced that its snipers had taken out a commander and three soldiers from the Tatmadaw’s Infantry Unit No. 541.

In October 2015, during the administration of then-President U Thein Sein, the AA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Kokang groups were excluded from signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Eight armed organizations out of more than 20 in the country inked the accord, but some of the largest, including the Kachin Independence Army, declined to do so.