Ethnic Issues

Myanmar’s Civilian Govt Seeks Closer Ties With Arakan Army on 14th Anniversary

By The Irrawaddy 10 April 2023

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) on Monday congratulated Rakhine State’s Arakan Army on its 14th anniversary and called for closer collaboration to establish a federal union.

Formed in 2009, the AA has been fighting the Myanmar military in Rakhine State since 2015 for self-determination for the Rakhine or Arakan community. It has the support of the Rakhine population and was inflicting huge casualties on regime troops in Rakhine and Paletwa Township in neighboring Chin State until an informal ceasefire was agreed in late 2020. The AA has since set up its own administration and judiciary across much of Rakhine State.

However, fighting resumed between the two sides in August 2022. A temporary ceasefire was agreed in November but tensions between the regime and the AA remain high.

In a written message to AA chief Major-General Tun Myat Naing, NUG Acting President Duwa Lashi La expressed his appreciation for the AA’s contributions to the Arakan people in their fight for self-determination over the past 14 years.

Formed after the coup, the NUG, largely made up of elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy government and their ethnic minority allies, has the wide support of Myanmar’s people, who recognize it as their legitimate government. Some NUG officials are operating outside Myanmar and working to achieve diplomatic recognition for the NUG, while others operate inside the country.

“On this important anniversary, we wish to work together to establish a federal union where the Arakan people have the right to self-determination and the right to create their own destiny,” Duwa Lashi La said.

In a letter replying to the NUG president on the same day, AA chief Maj-Gen Tun Myat Naing said he was delighted to receive the congratulatory message and referred to Duwa Lashi La as “Dear Mr. President”.

In a separate message to the AA, the NUG’s Defense Ministry expressed its deep respect for the Arakan martyrs and locals who have given their lives to the revolution or lost limbs, property, and homes.

The ministry acknowledged the AA’s stand with the oppressed in the anti-regime movement nationwide following the coup and its support for the revolutionary forces.

Major ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) like the Karen National Liberation Army and Kachin Independence Army have formal alliances and fight with the NUG’s armed wing, the people’s defense forces (PDFs). The AA has supported the PDFs with training and weapons.

In its message, the NUG defense ministry expressed hope that the Arakan Army would be able to implement its national and political aspirations.

“We must come together and try to advance our struggle and defeat the common enemy, the military regime,” the NUG defense ministry said.

A local political observer said that the NUG messages on the anniversary of the AA’s founding clearly indicate the civilian government is inviting the AA to work with them.

However, the observer added that this outcome was unlikely because although the NUG and the AA are both determined to defeat the military dictatorship, the AA has made clear that it wants to be independent and will not follow Burmese leadership.

Other AA allies sending messages on the 14th anniversary of its formation included the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and other armed organizations such as the Student Armed Force (SAF), Chin National Organization, People’s Revolution Alliance (Magway), People’s Defense Force-Mandalay, and the Burma People’s Liberation Army-BPLA also sent messages on the 14th anniversary of the AA’s formation.

The MNDAA and TNLA, which make up the Three Brotherhood Alliance with the Arakan Army, said the brotherhood must work with other organizations fighting the regime to free the country from military rule. They said they would stand united with the AA and continue to fight.