Arakan Army Frees Myanmar Junta Soldiers

By The Irrawaddy 18 June 2021

The Rakhine State-based Arakan Army (AA) has released six military personnel it captured in clashes with the Myanmar military, signaling closer ties between the ethnic armed group and the junta.

An AA team led by a major handed the six over to a military regime team at Kyauk Kyat village on the border of Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U townships in Rakhine State, western Myanmar on Wednesday, said former Rakhine State Parliament lawmaker U Tun Tha Sein.

“Two vehicles of military personnel came and a major took charge of the six men. But I don’t know their ranks,” said U Tun Tha Sein, who was present in the village.

Mrauk-U locals said that they saw soldiers providing security on the road as the two military vehicles left the town for Kyauktaw.

The AA is releasing detained military personnel in response to constructive developments in relations between the armed group and the Myanmar military, AA information officer Khaing Thukha told Western News, a Rakhine-based media outlet.

The AA also released 17 security personnel on Wednesday. They included 14 people abducted from a ferry in October 2019, as well as three older soldiers in poor health who were captured by the AA in fighting with the Myanmar military, said Khaing Thukha.

AA troops seized the Shwe Nadi ferry traveling between Sittwe and Buthidaung on Oct. 26 2019, near Rathedaung Township, and abducted a total of 58 security personnel and civilians.

The 14 security personnel released on Wednesday were the last abductees from the Shwe Nadi ferry still being held by the AA, said Khaing Thukha. On June 11, the armed group also released other security personnel taken from the Shwe Nadi ferry.

Myanmar authorities declared the AA a terrorist organization in March 2020 after fighting broke out in Rakhine State between the military and the group in late 2018.

However, the two sides have observed an unofficial ceasefire since last year’s November election. The State Administration Council, as Myanmar’s junta describes itself, removed the AA from the list of terrorist groups on March 11 this year.

Since then, the junta has dropped charges against some individuals arrested over their alleged ties to the AA, including relatives of the AA chief Major General Tun Myat Naing.

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