YANGON — A Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, captain and his entire squad were killed during a clash with troops of the Arakan Army (AA) in a remote area of northern Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township on Friday, according to military sources and relatives of the victims.
Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun of the Office of the Commander in Chief acknowledged that Capt. Chit Ko Ko was killed along with some other troops in a battle with the AA on Friday. He declined to provide a total death toll of army troops.
A long-time friend of Capt. Chit Ko Ko, Saw Lwin Saw, wrote a post on his Facebook page on Friday claiming that the crew comprised not more than 20 soldiers led by Capt. Chit Ko Ko was ordered by their commander to attack AA fighters in Buthidaung’s War Net Yone region situated near the border with Bangladesh on Friday.
The squad was unexpectedly surrounded on every side by AA rebels. In the fighting, his friend was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and afterwards, other government troops were not able to retrieve his body, he said.
Saw Lwin Saw said that his friend had been on duty in Monywa, Sagaing Region, but was recently summoned for reinforcement to Ann Township, Rakhine State where the military’s Western Command has their base. Some Facebook users took to the social media platform to criticize Capt. Chit Ko Ko’s senior commander for failing to supply additional troops while his crew was surrounded.
The Arakan Army (AA) announced battle updates via its website on Saturday, reporting that its fighters had fought with about 150 military troops from the Ann-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 373 in the War Net Yone region, close to the border on Friday and that about 12 government soldiers were killed.
The AA posted photos a number of pieces of military equipment which they seized from LIB No.373 troops, including a 9 mm pistol which is commonly used by high-ranking officers in the Myanmar military, a 60 mm mortar, four artillery shells, seven assault rifles, one remote control jammer, one RPG, more than one thousand 5.56 ammunition rounds and other military accessories.
According to the AA announcement, it clashed with government troops in Buthidaung, Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U townships in the first week of April. It stated that fighting in Kyauktaw Township’s Phauk Pe mountain range killed at least three government soldiers on Friday and up to 10 in battles on Saturday.
Last month, the President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay told reporters in Naypyitaw that at least 12 civilians have been killed in battles between the military and the AA within three months.
Last Wednesday, a military helicopter attack at Buthidaung Township’s Saidin waterfall, where several hundred Rohingya were harvesting bamboo and making rafts, killed at least six and wounded more than 10 Rohingya.
U Zaw Htay said the government military had killed a total of 58 AA fighters while the AA and other Arakanese civil society groups pointed out that most of the victims were shot dead by government troops in their villages without armed engagement and that 27 police had been killed but he refused to answer questions on the total death toll of military troops. Between December 2018 and April 2019, the army admitted three times that high ranking officers, including majors and captains, were shot dead by the AA without elaborating on the specific number of deaths.
In March, the AA seized a temporary tactical base belonging to the military in Buthidaung Township which borders Chin State’s Paletwa Township.