Six AA Fighters Killed as Myanmar Regime Bombs Outpost in Karen State

By The Irrawaddy 5 July 2022

Six Arakan Army (AA) soldiers were killed when Myanmar junta aircraft bombed an outpost of the Rakhine armed group located in an area controlled by its ally, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), near the Thai border in Karen State on Monday afternoon.

Though it primarily operates in Rakhine State, the AA has a base in territory controlled by Brigade No. 5 of the KNLA, an armed wing of the Karen National Union. The AA’s headquarters are in Kachin State’s Laiza, which is controlled by the Kachin Independence Army. Over the past decade, growing numbers of AA troops have penetrated Rakhine State and expanded the amount of territory under the group’s control there.

On Tuesday, the AA released the names of the soldiers killed by bombs dropped by two Myanmar military fighter jets on Monday at 12:25 p.m. All were aged between 20 and 31. The victims were from Rakhine State’s Rathedaung, Kyauktaw, Ponnakyun and Myebon townships and Chin State’s Paletwa Township.

Besides the fatalities, some AA soldiers were injured, and the outpost’s clinic and other buildings were destroyed in the bombing. The AA said the Myanmar junta’s fighter jets flew into Thai airspace after the attack.

KNLA brigades 5, 6 and 1 have been engaged in heavy fighting with junta troops in Karen State since a few months after the military staged a coup on Feb. 1 last year. However, this is the first time since the coup that an AA camp has been targeted outside of Rakhine State, where AA troops have been increasingly active since 2015.

Military tensions between the AA and the Myanmar military have risen again since May. AA spokesman Khaing Thukha has said the situation is fraught and that the junta is preparing for war in Rakhine, where the majority of AA troops are now based, in addition to the AA’s military camps in Karen and Kachin states.

The Myanmar military had been less active in Rakhine State since an informal ceasefire between it and the AA took hold in late 2020, but an increase in military activity has been observed lately with the regime reinforcing its troops and weaponry, including a submarine, the AA spokesman said last month.

Over the past year, with the Myanmar military distracted by the fallout from its 2021 coup, the AA has further consolidated its control in Rakhine with an administrative network delivering public services, a functioning judiciary, and its own police force. Tensions have arisen as the regime attempts to counter the AA’s expanding influence.