Over 100 soldiers including officers have defected from the Myanmar military to the Arakan Army (AA) since last year’s coup, said AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha on Tuesday during a press conference held by the Rakhine State-based ethnic armed organization.
“More than 100 soldiers have defected to us. We have provided assistance to them and helped them resettle for humanitarian reasons,” said Khaing Thukha.
However, he declined to provide further details about defectors who he said had abandoned their units in Rakhine State in western Myanmar.
Khaing Thukha said also that the AA has detained junta soldiers in response to the military regime’s arrest of administrative officials of the United League of Arakan (ULA), the political wing of the AA, in townships across Rakhine.
AA troops arrested a corporal and a private from a junta outpost near Kisspanadi Bridge in Kyauktaw on Saturday, he said. The pair were detained as they went to a nearby market to buy food, he added.
“The Myanmar military has been staging night raids on the houses of our ULA/AA members. We have detained their troops in retaliation for this. When they release our troops, we will release theirs too,” said the AA spokesperson.
The regime has not issued a statement about the AA’s arrest of its troops.
Deputy junta chief Vice Senior General Soe Win is currently in Rakhine and met military personnel based in the capital Sittwe on Monday, according to regime media. He urged the soldiers to be on full alert at all times while performing their duties, and to be ready for combat at all times.
“Military personnel are responsible for security around the clock and security must be your top priority in performing national defense duty,” he told the troops.
Military tensions are running high in Rakhine with junta forces expanding their presence with reinforcements of artillery and navy vessels. Since November 2020, the Myanmar military and the AA have observed an unofficial ceasefire, following two years of intense fighting.
But renewed clashes between the two sides have been taking place in Chin State’s Paletwa Township, which borders Rakhine, since May.