Govt Escalates Rhetoric Against Arakan Army as Casualties Mount

By Lawi Weng 8 January 2016

RANGOON — A commander and “several” other members of the Burma Army have been killed in recent fighting with the Arakan Army in Kyauktaw Township, according to state-run media, which on Friday reported that the military intended to “remove” the ethnic armed group from Arakan State.

An incongruous front page of the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Friday featured a detailed account of fighting over the period of Dec. 28-Jan. 4. Above the article was reported the latest developments in the government-led peace process with non-state armed groups who have signed a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement with Naypyidaw, a grouping of eight that does not include the Arakan Army.

The former report said the Burma Army commander was shot and killed by sniper fire from the Arakan Army. The Burma Army seized arms and other equipment from the ethnic armed group as it mounted an operation to clear the Ranchaung area in Kyauktaw Township of the rebel group, according to the report, which described the Arakan Army as “insurgents.”

An apparent discrepancy between English- and Burmese-language state dailies on Friday described the military as having alternately “captured” and recovered the dead bodies of three Arakan Army soldiers.

Yan Naing Soe, the deceased Burma Army commander, was killed on Dec. 31, according to an obituary printed in state-run newspapers this week. In an unexplained curiosity, the commander’s obituary ran twice, first stating that he had succumbed to sudden illness, and one day later revising the cause of death to explain that he was killed in the line of duty.

Hundreds of local Arakanese people have fled their homes due to the fighting. About 500 Kyauktaw Township locals on Thursday protested the conflict.

The Burmese-language state-run daily The Mirror reported that the Arakan Army sought assistance from a “Kalar terrorism” illegal armed group along the border with Bangladesh, “Kalar” being a derogatory term in Burmese for individuals of South Asian descent.

The report in The Mirror went on to accuse some Arakan Army members of splitting up and retreating to Mrauk-U, Minbya and Kyauktaw townships, where they were said to be laying low by attempting to pass as civilians while planning to carry out future “terrorism.”

“They have no commitment to what they are doing, and they just threaten the people or even try to divide trust between the people,” said the report in Friday’s edition of The Mirror, which originated from the military mouthpiece Myawaddy.