Sittwe, Rakhine State — Fresh clashes broke out in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township between Myanmar’s military (the Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army (AA) on Saturday, with both sides reportedly suffering heavy casualties.
Clashes took place near the villages of Kyauktan and Aungtharzi in Rathedaung Township and continued until Monday, according to residents and lawmakers.
“The clashes were fierce, probably the fiercest so far in Rathedaung. On Monday, [the military] bombed with fighter jets and there has been shelling every day,” Rathedaung’s Upper House lawmaker U Khin Maung Latt told The Irrawaddy.
According to residents, the two sides are fighting to gain control of a hill near Aungtharzi between Kyauktan and Hteeswe villages.
A Kyauktan villager said: “The village has been long abandoned. Only a few have gone back to the village due to the difficulties at IDP [internally displaced] camps. I think they are stuck in the village in the fighting. I heard heavy guns and fighter jets. I don’t know about the situation in the village.”
Myanmar’s military spokesman, Major General Zaw Min Tun, said clashes happened because the AA blocked water and road transport to Sittwe, Rathedaung and Buthidaung townships.
“As they have blocked off water and road transport, the Tatmadaw is taking measures for the safety of vessels and vehicles,” Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.
Myanmar’s military on Monday said the fighting took place because AA troops on the hill near Hteeswe were blocking the Ponnagyun-Rathedaung-Buthidaung road and the Sittwe-Buthidaung-Rathedaung waterway.
The AA attacked naval vessels six times in September, the military’s statement said, adding that its troops seized the hill on Sunday. It said both sides suffered casualties.
Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun said on Tuesday: “The AA has deployed troops to block transport and we carried out large-scale attacks on AA deployments. We suffered some casualties and some weapons were damaged. The AA was taking steps to regain control of the hill. I don’t know the detailed situation today.”
The AA said on Facebook that it was able to reoccupy the hill from the military on Monday. Thirty Tatmadaw soldiers were killed in the fighting, the AA claimed.
As the government has declared the AA a terrorist organization, The Irrawaddy was not able to contact the armed group for a comment.
The Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC) said on Oct. 1 that more than 36,000 people have been displaced by fighting since August in Rakhine State, with the number exceeding 22,000 in late September in northern Rakhine.
Though there was no reported fighting on Tuesday, three villagers, aged 53, 84 and eight, were injured in Kanpyin and Pyinwun villages as naval vessels shelled from the Mayu River, according to residents. A 60-year-old man at an IDP camp in Kanpyin was also injured by shelling, according to the REC.
Myanmar’s military says it has extended a unilateral ceasefire several times but exempted Rakhine State, saying it is fighting terrorists in the state.
The government issued stay-at-home orders across Rakhine State in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases but ongoing fighting is forcing people from their homes on a daily basis,
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.
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