Tatmadaw, Arakan Army Clash in Buthidaung Township

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 6 December 2018

YANGON—The Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army (AA) have engaged in a series of clashes over the past six days or so along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, according to the ethnic armed group.

“The two sides engaged in a fierce clash from 6.30 a.m. till 2 p.m. [Wednesday], and the fighting continued sporadically [till evening],” AA information officer U Khaing Thu Kha told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

The clashes occurred in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township, he said.

U Khaing Thu Kha said the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) launched an offensive in areas controlled by the AA on Nov. 29, and the clashes intensified on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The AA maintains control of its border strongholds in Buthidaung Township, he said.

“We have collected bodies [of killed Tatmadaw soldiers] and seized arms and ammunition from the Myanmar Army. It is a large amount of weapons and ammunition, but I haven’t got a detailed list,” U Khaing Thu Kha said.

The Irrawaddy could not reach a Tatmadaw spokesman for comment. There was no report from the Myanmar military commander-in-chief’s office of clashes in Buthidaung Township.

Residents and civil society organizations based in Buthidaung said they had heard reports of clashes between the Tatmadaw and AA, but had not witnessed them from the town. All declined to discuss any possible clashes further with news agencies.

Rakhine State lawmaker U Tun Aung Thein of Buthidaung Township said he did not have details of the situation on the ground, as the clashes were reportedly taking place in inaccessible areas without telecommunications services.

There are Mro and Khami villages along the border in Buthidaung Township, but they are located in the forest and he was not in contact with them, U Tun Aung Thein said.

During clashes on the border in May, the AA took three Tatmadaw soldiers prisoner. The captured troops were from the Buthidaung-based Light Infantry Battalion 263.

After initially saying it would release the three, the AA later said they would remain in its area of control. It claimed the Tatmadaw soldiers were afraid to return to their unit.

The Tatmadaw has not released any statements about the three soldiers.

The Myanmar military has said it would allow the AA, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army to join formal peace talks only after they disarm. But the three have refused to do so.

The AA was formed by around 20 Arakanese youths in April 2009. It is based in Kachin State’s Laiza, which is also home to the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army. In 2014, the AA said it planned to establish a base in its homeland of Rakhine State. It then infiltrated Rakhine State and Chin State’s Paletwa Township along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, and has clashed with the Myanmar Army periodically since 2015.