SITTWE—The Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, has refuted the Arakan Army’s (AA’s) claim that it has suffered over 1,000 casualties in fighting with the AA in western Myanmar since early this year.
On June 8, the AA released a report in which it listed Tatmadaw fatalities and injuries in a five-month period from January through May in six northern Rakhine townships and Chin State’s Paletwa Township. The report estimated that 1,144 military soldiers were killed in clashes.
“It is not that much. What I am sure of is that the [actual] figure is even less than 10 percent of what they said,” Tatmadaw spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.
The Tatmadaw does not publish casualty figures of either side while a conflict is ongoing, but only after the fighting ends, he said.
“According to our procedures, we issue [casualty figures] as a record when the entire military operation is complete. For the time being, it is not our policy to publish figures about casualties, injuries or detentions,” he said.
When asked by The Irrawaddy about how his armed group found the information in the report, the AA’s information officer Khaing Thukha replied that it is based on eyewitness accounts from commanders who have been fighting on the ground.
“We released those figures to highlight the extent of the loss inflicted on the country’s human resources in the five months of war waged by the government and the military as well as the undesirable impact of war, especially for the military and the government, so that they can reconsider [their actions],” he told The Irrawaddy.
When asked by The Irrawaddy about AA’s own casualties, Khaing Thukha declined to answer.
At a press conference in Naypyitaw on June 7, President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay said that the President’s Office has instructed the Myanmar military to conduct effective counter-insurgency operations in Rakhine State, saying the deployment of an appropriate number of troops and helicopters is allowed if necessary.
On the occasion, U Zaw Htay urged the AA to join the peace process for the sake of the ethnic Arakanese people.
The AA has no choice but to act in defense because the war is waged by the government and the military, said Khaing Thukha.
“The government ordered the military to crush the AA. The military used excessive force and the army, navy and air force launched combined attacks on us,” Khaing Thuka told The Irrawaddy.
“In the military history of [Myanmar], it is only at the Rakhine frontline that combined attacks by the army, navy and air force were launched, and aerial bombings were carried out day and night. We are oppressed, and we have no choice but to defend. [It is the military] that attack us by saying they will crush us. It is not that we declared war on them,” he added.
According to the AA’s report, the Tatmadaw suffered 88 casualties in January, 92 in February, 220 in March, 254 in April and 490 in May, totaling 1,144.
From January through March, there were over 100 clashes between the two sides in Rakhine State, and more than 40,000 people have been displaced.
U Zaw Htay said at the press conference in May that from Jan. 1 to May 27, about 100 AA soldiers and 31 police had been killed and 48 AA soldiers had been captured. He did not, however, reveal casualty figures for government military forces.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.
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