RANGOON — The Arakan Army (AA) has ramped up its clashes against government forces in western Burma and the Bangladesh border region since the start of November, killing 10 Burma Army soldiers and wounding dozens more, the AA claimed in a statement on Monday night.
Throughout November and December, the AA had only one of its own soldiers killed and one injured, the AA statement read. However, despite the rising number of clashes between the Burma Army and AA, neither side issued any prior statements on the military skirmishes over the past two months.
On Monday, AA soldiers of Infantry Unit 314, Brigade 3 clashed three times with a government army battalion in Paletwa Township, Chin State, the AA reported. The AA said it suffered no casualties in the fighting.
Maj-Gen Aung Ye Win, a Burma Army spokesman, spoke to the Irrawaddy by phone from Naypyidaw on Tuesday but declined to answer questions about military operations in Arakan State.
“I have to deal with a VIP visit right now,” he said.
The AA accused the Burma Army of detaining and torturing about 20 loggers who went into the forest to cut bamboo in recent days, presumably because the government suspected the men of being AA soldiers. It is unclear if those detained villagers came from Arakan State or Paletwa Township, Chin State.
Residents of Kyauktaw Township in Arakan State told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that minor clashes have broken out often in the nearby forests. Locals say they have witnessed wounded Burma Army soldiers being evacuated by boat to the local jetty, presumably after being injured in battles in adjacent Paletwa Township, where waterways are the only available transportation.
In one November clash, Burma Army soldiers fired artillery shells “indiscriminately” near a region that straddles the border of Arakan and Chin states. About 200 civilians fled the villages to avoid being hit by artillery explosions, the AA claimed on Monday.
The AA said it has provided food, clothing and medical care to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area since November. The AA fears that the number of IDPs will increase as clashes continue between the AA and Burma Army, the AA said in its statement.
Cold weather in December will present greater challenges to the IDPs, so the AA has put out a request to Arakanese people with “patriotic spirit” to make donations to the United League of Arakan (ULA), the political wing of the AA, in order to supply IDPs with warm clothing, blankets and food.
The Burma Army is currently sending troop reinforcements to several townships in Arakan State and southern Chin State, including Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, and Paletwa townships, the AA has claimed. The AA has asked the public to closely monitor movements of the Burma Army.