YANGON— The Chin National Front (CNF) has issued another warning to the Arakan Army (AA), asking the armed group to withdraw from Chin State’s Paletwa Township, which the AA has used as a base to fight the Myanmar military.
The CNF held its second central executive committee meeting of the year from July 7-15, after which it repeated its demand that the AA leave Paletwa.
The CNF was formed in March 1988 and is dedicated to achieving self-determination for ethnic Chin people and to working for democracy and a federal Union. It is based in Camp Victoria, in Thantlang, Chin State, and has around 200 members in its armed forces, according to Myanmar Peace Monitor. It entered into peace talks with the previous government in late 2011 and singed a bilateral ceasefire in January 2012 and the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in October 2015.
“We have not talked with the government troops about the AA,” said CNF spokesman Salai Htet Ni. “What is important is that the two sides stop fighting. We are asking the AA to leave Paletwa so that clashes do not happen.”
The group’s central executive committee discussed the ongoing peace process, assistance for internally displaced people in Paletwa and Rakhine State and the clashes between the Myanmar military and the AA in Paletwa.
At the meeting, the CNF decided to take measures to prevent the AA from establishing bases and undertaking military operations on Chin territory.
“The government says our troops can be stationed anywhere in Chin State except Paletwa. If we were allowed to station them in Paletwa, the situation would not have been this bad. But as things have happened now, we will do our best to prevent the AA from establishing bases,” Salai Htet Ni told The Irrawaddy.
In an interview with the Chin Cable Network Channel, AA chief Major General Tun Myat Naing said that the AA inevitably has to enter Chin State to achieve military victory because the two states share a border.
“We can’t fight only in Rakhine State. It is a matter of life and death. We have to enter [Chin State] because we have no choice, whether we want it or not. To win a war, this is inevitable. As the two states are bordering, even though we are speaking of Chin territory and Rakhine territory, in fact, our social lives are inseparable. That’s why we continue to operate [in Paletwa],” the AA chief was quoted as saying.
The AA was formed in 2009 by a group of fighters in Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army in Kachin State, and has been in heavy military engagement with the Tatmadaw since it tried to establish its base in Rakhine State in 2015. Continuous fighting in Paletwa, just over the border from Rakhine, has affected some 100,000 local residents.
CNF Chairman Pu Zing Cung said on January 26 that the CNF would openly drive the AA out if the armed group does not heed the CNF’s warning not to conduct military operations on Chin territory.
When asked about what the CNF chairman means by “driving out”, Salai Htet Ni said, “We can’t say whether we will solve this militarily or politically. To drive them out of our state, it is possible to use military means as well as political dialogue. It can be interpreted differently.”
He said that when the CNF met AA leaders in 2016 and requested that the AA not fight in Chin State, the AA refused, and that therefore the CNF will not negotiate again.
The Myanmar military and the AA have been fighting around a strategic hill where Myanmar military troops are stationed near Meewa Village in Paletwa Township. The hill is strategic as it overlooks the Kaladan River, which flows through Rakhine and Chin states and is used to goods and people.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.