Violence in Rakhine Escalates on Eve of Myanmar Peace Talks

By Min Aung Khine 17 September 2019

SITTWE, Rakhine State—The Myanmar army and the Arakan Army (AA) fought in Minbya Township, Rakhine State on Monday, with the Myanmar Army using helicopters to bomb AA troops, according AA spokesman Khaing Thukha.

The AA clashed with troops from Division 44 of the Myanmar army twice in the morning and once in the afternoon, some 4 km to the northeast of Kyaw Ka Village in Minbya Township.

“There was a clash around 9 a.m. and another around 12 p.m. After the two clashes, the military attacked with three helicopters around 2 p.m. Because the military has now brought in reinforcements, the clashes will likely continue to intensify,” the AA spokesman told The Irrawaddy.

The AA seized the dead bodies of three Myanmar army soldiers along with three small arms, a pistol and over 20 baskets belonging to the military, according to the AA spokesman. Some AA fighters sustained minor injuries.

The clashes took place on the eve of peace talks between the government’s peace commission, the Myanmar army, the AA, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in Shan State’s Kengtung. The peace talks took place on schedule Tuesday despite the clashes.

Spokesman for the Myanmar army’s Western Command Colonel Win Zaw Oo confirmed the clashes but said that he did not know the details.

When asked if the clashes could negatively impact the Kengtung peace talks, he said, “I can’t assess the impact. It is to be decided by the higher-ups.”

Local residents of Skwe Kyin Village in Minbya Township reported seeing military helicopters firing shots on Monday afternoon in the mountains to the north of their village.

“We saw three helicopters coming around 2 p.m. Two of them were flying around in the mountains shooting and the third one landed on a hill,” Said Shwe Kyin resident U Poe Thein. Speaking with The Irrawaddy around noon on Tuesday, he said that the area had quieted down.

“We didn’t dare to sleep last night because we were concerned that artillery shells would hit our house. We also didn’t dare to go out of the village either,” Shwe Kyin said.

There was also a clash between the Myanmar army, which is also known as the Tatmadaw, and the AA in Kyauktaw Township on Monday noon, according to Col. Win Zaw Oo.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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