Tatmadaw Troops Killed and Wounded in Arakan Army Ambush

By Lawi Weng & Htet Naing Zaw 9 November 2017

YANGON — At least 11 Myanmar Army troops were killed and 14 wounded during a clash with the Arakan Army (AA) in the western township of Paletwa in Chin State, according to military sources in Parliament.

Retired Myanmar Army Lt-Gen Thaung Aye, a Lower House lawmaker, confirmed the causalities and injured. Two army officers and nine troops from other ranks died, he said.

“It was not a good situation,” he added.

Lt-Gen Thaung Aye explained the troops were ambushed while traveling by boat along the Kaladan River, which runs through Chin and Rakhine states from east India.

One university student was killed and four women were injured in the attack, as they were also on board the military boat, according to local sources.

“[The AA] should not act like that. It is time for the government to make a strong decision to eliminate them,” said Lt-Gen Thaung Aye.

Fighting between the two sides has escalated since the first week of November, with clashes on Wednesday north of Paletwa in Nom Bu and Nge Chest villages, where the AA issued a message to locals on Nov. 5. It said the Tatmadaw has intensified offensives in the area and warned people only to travel if necessary.

The AA attacked three Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, boats on Wednesday, according to a statement posted on the AA Facebook page, but the message did not mention any casualties or wounded.

The ethnic armed group targeted the Tatmadaw’s Light Infantry Battalion 563 under the control of the Western Command, based in Rakhine State, according to the statement, adding that clashes have broken out in several places on the India-Myanmar border.

“We heard 10 Tatmadaw battalions were coming as reinforcements. They came by boats,” said lawmaker U Kwe Thang of Kanpetlet constituency in Chin State.

The Irrawaddy was unable to verify reports of ground fighting. Defense ministry spokesperson Gen Aung Ye Win declined to comment.

About 300 civilians in Paletwa fled the clashes on Nov. 3, according to local sources, and sought shelter at a Buddhist monastery.

Paletwa is an ethnic Chin township that borders Rakhine State. The AA uses the area as a base, crossing the Kaladan River to enter Rakhine.

Many Chin locals dislike the AA using the township as a base, but the area has become a strategically important location for the group, which mainly stays in Kachin State’s Laiza town—the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army.

The AA has not signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement nor does it have a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the Tatmadaw. It is part of ethnic bloc the Northern Alliance and bases itself in Kachin and northern Shan states.

The Tatmadaw does not officially recognize the AA and in statements refers to it as a “Northern Alliance member.”

The ethnic armed group has joined conflicts against the Tatmadaw in Kokang territory and Kachin State, where the AA recruited many members in the jade mining area of Hpakant. Arakanese migrant workers in Mongla near the Chinese border and northern Shan State are also a source of recruitment for the group.