The Myanmar regime-allied Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) on Thursday accused rival Rakhine armed group the Arakan Army (AA) of killing three leaders of its military wing, the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA). The AA has dismissed the allegations.
The commander-in-chief of the ALA, Major General Khaing Soe Mya, the commander of the ALA’s Battalion 101, Lieutenant Colonel Khaing Kyaw Soe, and ALA Captain Khaing Thuri Na were assassinated on Wednesday in Sittwe, the capital of western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The three men were driving to a junta-organized event to mark the 75th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence from the UK when they were shot dead.
In a statement issued Thursday the ALP condemned the killings and accused the AA of murdering the three men, saying that “inhumane assassinations targeting people of the same race shatters Rakhine national solidarity and shocks the Rakhine people.”
ALP vice chair Daw Saw Mra Razar Linn told The Irrawaddy via her office staff that she does not want to talk to the media at this moment, and referred The Irrawaddy to the ALP’s statement.
AA spokesman Khaing Thukha said the ALP’s accusation is baseless.
“They have accused us perhaps because they want to revive their lost popularity. What’s more, the ALP is divided into two camps which are fighting each other. They even compete about who should represent the ALP at meetings in Naypyitaw. They have many internal conflicts over financial matters and there is a power struggle going on,” said Khaing Thukha.
It is also possible that the three ALA leaders were killed by a third party to exacerbate the feud between the two Rakhine ethnic armed organizations (EAO), added the AA spokesman.
Ethnic Rakhine politician U Pe Than said: “The ALP must have proof if it makes such an accusation. I have no comment about the killings. What we want to see is all the Rakhine people working in unity to achieve their objectives.”
Tensions have escalated between the ALP and AA over conflicting allegiances and policies. The two sides have traded arrests as relations soured.
In its Thursday statement the ALP accused the AA of detaining, torturing and killing ALP and ALA leaders and members, as well as arbitrarily detaining and killing leaders and members of other Rakhine political parties and monks and civilians. The ALP vowed to achieve justice for them.
The ALP signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in 2015 and is currently engaged in peace talks with the military regime. The assassinated ALA chief Khaing Soe Mya had recently met junta boss Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw.
Established in 1967, the ALP is the oldest Rakhine EAO. Its popularity and influence, though, is waning among Rakhine communities because of the group’s ties to the dictatorship. In contrast, the AA is enjoying a surge in popularity and has consolidated its control in much of rural Rakhine State.