Myanmar Junta Warns Arakan National Party Over Statement on Rakhine Killings

By The Irrawaddy 14 October 2022

The junta’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has issued a warning to the Arakan National Party (ANP) following its statement condemning the regime for deadly artillery attacks on villages in Rakhine State.

The ANP, which is based in Rakhine, issued a statement on September 29 slamming regime troops for artillery attacks that resulted in civilian deaths and injuries as well as damage to homes. The statement also urged the warring groups to stop targeting residential areas.

Three villagers including a four-year-old boy in Kin Seik Village were killed when the junta’s Light Infantry Battalion Nos. 377 and 540, based in Mrauk-U town, fired around 30 shells toward the village following a skirmish with the Arakan Army (AA) near neighboring Lekka village in late August. Several other villagers were injured in the bombardment.

In late October, two seven-year-olds were killed in Kyauktaw and Buthidaung townships when junta forces fired mortar shells without apparent reason. 

The unofficial ceasefire observed by the Myanmar military and the AA ahead of 2020 November election, after two years of intense fighting, has now collapsed entirely amid months of fighting in Rakhine and neighboring Chin State’s Paletwa Township.

Clashes have been reported in Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun, Mrauk-U and Rathedaung townships. Junta shelling also injured two children and damaged houses in Maung Swe Village, Mrauk-U on September 29.

Meanwhile four civilians were injured and six houses were damaged when junta forces shelled Sekka Yay Village, Minbya on September 27.

Following their statement condemning the attacks, ANP officials were summoned to the electoral body’s office in Naypyitaw on Wednesday and warned to abide by party registration laws.

“The UEC said we failed to follow certain provisions in the Political Parties Registration Law, and that our statement was one-sided. We explained that we, as a political party, feel obliged to speak out when our people suffer, which is why we issued the statement,” said ANP chair U Tha Tun Hla.

The regime election commission warned ANP officials to abide by existing laws and rules in any future statements it makes about the fighting in Rakhine, he added.

“We will issue statements as necessary for the interests of the people, though they may result in different views and disputes,” said the ANP chair.

The regime last month ordered local and international NGOs to halt humanitarian aid operations in six townships amid rising military tension in the region. It has also denied locals access to roads and waterways in several parts of the state, including those unaffected by fighting.  

The blockade of land and water routes threatens the livelihoods of local people, said the ANP statement.

It also called on the regime to lift its travel ban on aid agencies providing humanitarian aid to internally displaced people in Rakhine.

Prices have soared as locals face food shortages following the junta’s blockade of routes in northern Rakhine including Buthidaung and Maungdaw.