Myanmar Military Calls in Jets to Attack Arakan Army in Rakhine State Mountains

By Min Aung Khine 14 October 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine State—Clashes broke out between the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army (AA) in mountains near Aungtharzi Village in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township on Tuesday morning, with the Myanmar military’s ground, air and naval forces conducting joint operations, according to local residents.

Locals reported that two Myanmar military fighter jets carried out aerial attacks three times against positions in the nearby mountains—at around 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.—while ground troops and naval vessels provided supporting artillery fire.

Rathedaung resident U Maung Saw Win said, “Clashes have been going on in the mountains near Aungtharzi Village. The Myanmar military came and attacked with jet fighters three times [on Tuesday]. Naval vessels also shelled from the river. I saw smoke near Aungtharzi Village.”

Upper House lawmaker U Khin Maung Latt of Rathedaung said, “Tuesday’s clash was probably the fiercest in Rathedaung so far. In previous clashes, [the Myanmar military] only used helicopters to drop bombs, but in the latest clash, they even used jet fighters. The navy also joined the attacks, and ground troops shelled with artillery.”

Locals from Aungtharzi and nearby villages have been fleeing their homes since last month due to the armed conflicts in their area.

Smoke rises near Aungtharzi Village / Maung Saw Win / Facebook

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach Myanmar military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun or Rakhine State Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Min Than for comment.

On Oct. 3-5, the two sides engaged in three days of fierce fighting for control of a strategic hill near Aungtharzi between Kyauktan and Hteeswe villages.

The Myanmar military said it seized the hill from the AA on Oct. 4. However, the AA said on Facebook that it was able to retake the hill on Oct. 5. Thirty Tatmadaw soldiers were killed in the fighting, the AA claimed.

As the government has declared the AA a terrorist organization, The Irrawaddy is not able to contact the armed group for comment.

According to the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, over 30,000 people have been forced from their homes in Kyauktaw, Rathedaung and Mrauk-U townships over the past two months. More than 226,000 people have so far been displaced since fighting between the Myanmar military and the AA broke out in 2018.

The Myanmar military has declared a unilateral ceasefire across the country, but excluded Rakhine State, citing the risks posed by terrorist groups in the area.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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