Burma

Rakhine Truce Between Myanmar Junta and Arakan Army ‘Hanging by a Thread’ 

By The Irrawaddy 29 November 2022

There is no guarantee that the sudden ceasefire between Myanmar’s military regime and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine will hold for long, said political observers.

Rakhine politician U Pe Than said the truce is fragile as it is merely a verbal rather than written agreement.

“The Myanmar military must halt its mortar barrages on villages and stop detaining villagers. If it fails to do so, it will be breaking the ceasefire agreement. If these problems are not resolved for local people, fighting will start again,” said U Pe Than.

“The [renewed] fighting happened after [the military] disrupted the administrative functions of the AA. If the regime disrupts the administration and judiciary of the AA and arrests civilians, clashes will break out again,” he warned.

The two sides called a truce as each is facing a crisis, said a political observer from the Bamar-majority area who asked not to be named. The AA agreed to the ceasefire amid junta-imposed travel restrictions that are taking a heavy toll on Rakhine residents. The junta, meanwhile, has suffered high casualties and lost dozens of bases since fighting flared up in May.

The AA told a press briefing on Monday that it had agreed to the ceasefire on humanitarian grounds given the crisis that is facing locals in Rakhine State.

The ceasefire was brokered by the chairman of Japan’s Nippon Foundation, Yohei Sasakawa, according to the AA. Sasakawa is close to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Troops of both sides have agreed to stay in their current positions, said Khaing Thukha, adding that the ceasefire did not signal a shift in the AA’s political position.

The regime has also agreed to stop blocking the delivery of food and medicine to Rakhine from other parts of the country, said Khaing Thukha, who warned that fighting could erupt at any time if the junta breaks the agreement.

Main roads and waterways in northern Rakhine have been blocked for more than two months. Meanwhile farmers have been unable to harvest their rice in parts of the state because of indiscriminate junta artillery strikes. The blockade and artillery strikes have threatened to bring serious food shortages.

AA troops are now besieging the junta’s Taungpyo tactical command base in Maungdaw and have deployed along the Sittwe-Ponnagyun road that links Rakhine’s capital Sittwe with Myanmar’s commercial hub, Yangon.

Khaing Thukha said the regime detained over 300 Rakhine locals for alleged ties to the AA during renewed fighting, and 239 remain behind bars.

Regime troops have so far reopened only the Buthidaung-Rathedaung, Maungdaw-Agnumaw, and Sittwe-Agnumaw roads plus a few waterways linking Sittwe to outlying areas. Observers said further talks between the two sides are needed.

One political observer said the two sides could begin fighting anytime as they have not reached a political agreement.

“The regime will stick to the 2008 Constitution, which requires ethnic armed organizations to transform into Border Guard Forces. The AA will not accept that. So, clashes could erupt at any moment from political disagreements,” he said.

Sasawaka also mediated an informal ceasefire between the junta and the AA ahead of the November 2020 election. This latest fragile truce was agreed four months after hostilities flared again in August.

Some 100,000 Rakhine civilians, including those displaced by previous fighting from late 2018 to 2020, are in displacement camps after fleeing the renewed hostilities and need food supplies, blankets, and medicines, said AA.

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