Myanmar Military Says Remote Landmines Pose Major Threat in Rakhine

By Htet Naing Zaw 13 September 2019

NAYPYITAW—Myanmar military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun has said the Arakan Army (AA) presents a major threat because the ethnic armed group now uses modern technologies in the violent conflict in Rakhine State.

The military spokesperson said the military needs to take extra security precautions as the AA has been using remote-detonated explosive devices in their attacks.

“Bombings can be carried out via mobile phones and walkie-talkies, so we need to pay greater attention to security,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun. He made the comments in response to a recent report by Indian intelligence agencies that the AA is using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies to trigger landmines targeting the Myanmar army.

The Indian government is concerned about the threat the AA poses to the Kaladan Project, a multimodal transport project now under development that will link the Indian port of Kolkata with the port in Sittwe, Rakhine State’s capital and a key gateway for India to access Southeast Asia.

According to Indian intelligence agencies, the AA is active in Mizoram, an Indian state along the Kaladan Project route. Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, and the Defense Ministry are cooperating with international agencies, armed forces and police forces on intelligence gathering and counterterrorism measures.

“We have technology that can counter [AA] attacks but technology can’t guarantee 100 percent security. Terrorists will study how defensive technologies are used and attack the places that are technically weak and less protected,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

Tatmadaw officials allege that the AA has ties to terrorist organizations and is likely to carry out bombings in civilian areas.

AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha said this is a groundless accusation and that the AA has no ties to terrorist organizations. He added that using modern technology to launch attacks has nothing to do with terrorism.

“We don’t use landmines in places where civilians can be harmed. We use technology to carefully control how we use mines on the military. It is the military that can’t control their landmines,” said Khaing Thukha.

Dr. Min Zaw Oo, executive director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security, said triggering mines remotely is not new and that some ethnic armed groups have used this tactic for some time already.

“Techniques to make mines more powerful are more important [than remote trigger technology],” he said.

There have been several reports of landmines found on the Myanmar-Bangladeshi border in Rakhine State. The use of landmines is illegal under the international Mine Ban Treaty, but Myanmar is one of 32 countries, including the US and China, that have yet to ratify the treaty. Bangladesh, however, has signed the treaty.

Clashes between the AA and the Tatmadaw erupted on Nov. 30 last year in Chin State’s Paletwa Township before spreading to Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun and Mrauk-U townships in Rakhine.

The Myanmar government met with the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups, which includes the AA, for peace talks on Aug. 31 in Shan State’s Kengtung and plans to hold a second round of talks on Sept. 17.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.