Naypyitaw – Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun has claimed that the Arakan Army (AA) is conducting attacks in disguise as civilians and the military has to use helicopters to crush them.
“[The AA] have a lot of informants on the ground. When they fight, they are wearing plainclothes rather than uniforms. If we can’t respond immediately, they go back into the village and pretend to be villagers. The only way to crush them quickly is to use a helicopter,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.
The fighting has intensified in northern Rakhine State and clashes lasting for at least four hours were reported in Mrauk-U and Minbya townships on Wednesday with both sides suffering injuries, he said.
“We suffered injuries in clashes near Pan Myaung Village [in Minbya],” he said. “The fighting also took place near Pann Myaung on Nov. 26. There was a mine attack near Maha Muni Pagoda in Kyauktaw.”
According to residents, the Tatmadaw (military) attacked with helicopters in a clash near the 500-household Kyaung Taung Village in Mrauk-U Township on Wednesday. A male villager died while receiving treatment for gunshots at Mrauk-U’s hospital. Villagers have fled their homes.
State parliamentarian U Tun Tha Sein, representing Mrauk-U, said clashes have escalated and more people are being forced from their homes.
“The number of people impacted by clashes has increased in Mrauk-U. And villagers dare not go to the fields. And some houses were damaged by mortar shells. Children can’t go to school,” U Tun Tha Sein told The Irrawaddy.
Meanwhile, patients and pregnant women have difficulty reaching hospitals.
According to the Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC), more than 80,000 people have been displaced by clashes in northern Rakhine State since November 2018.
“Some have lived in camps for nearly a year. They don’t always receive food. And there are camps that just manage to survive,” REC chairman U Shwe Paw Sein told The Irrawaddy.
The number of displaced has increased in Mrauk-U, Minbya, Rathedaung and Buthidaung townships. On Thursday, all the villagers from Kan Paing Chaung in Buthidaung Township fled, according to REC. Food supplies are limited in Rathedaung, Minbya and Ponnagyun townships.
The Myanmar military reportedly used fighters and helicopters to bomb AA troops in clashes that lasted for more than a week in March in Kyauktaw Township.
The military also reportedly used fighters and helicopters after an AA attack on a temporary Tatmadaw artillery outpost in Mrauk-U in April.
Additional reporting by Min Aung Khine