Ethnic Army Clashes With Myanmar Forces, Leaving Casualties on Both Sides in Myanmar’s Rakhine

Myanmar troops clashed with Arakan Army soldiers in remote parts of northern Rakhine state’s Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships, leaving casualties on both sides during fighting this week, the military-owned news service Myawady reported on Friday.

Four AA soldiers were killed during the clashes, while officers and other ranks from the Myanmar Army also lost their lives, the report said, but gave no further details.

Clashes began after AA troops ambushed a military column conducting “area clearing” operations near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border on Monday, the report said.

The fighting continued until Thursday in Buthidaung’s Pyinchaung village and Rathedaung’s Yaysochaung village, Myawady said.

“The fighting began after the Myanmar military intruded into the Arakan Army-controlled area to conduct operations,” AA spokesman Khine Thukha told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

The Myanmar army has insisted that it will maintain regional stability and security in the area.

Fighting took place between Nahan and Wanatyone villages from Dec. 3 through Dec. 6, he said.

These clashes were also intense, with a battle in Monday lasting for five hours and another on Wednesday lasting eight hours, Khine Thukha said.

Clashes also occurred north of Buthidaung on Nov. 29, with intense hostilities near Saipyinchaung village, he said.

‘Troubling for locals’

Tun Aung Thein, a local lawmaker from Buthidaung, expressed concern about the residents of four village tracts in the region’s remote Saipyin Hill area who fled their homes during the hostilities.

“It’s troubling for local residents when the fighting escalates,” he said, adding that officials have not heard any news from people who live in the area about 40-50 miles from Buthidaung township where he lives.

“Internet connections and communications are inaccessible in the hilly region there,” he said, adding that it is physically difficult to reach displaced villagers because of poor road conditions.

No clashes were reported this morning though tensions remain high in the region, sources said.

Buthidaung township administrator Kyaw Min Tun said relief work is underway for the estimated 2,000 villagers who have been displaced.

“We’re standing by, which is our duty,” he told RFA, adding that only about 2,000-3,000 villagers lived in the area.

“Security here is safe because we have border guards and military,” he said.

The AA said that fighting between the two armies had also occurred between Buthidaung’s Wanatyone and Nahan villages on Nov. 28.

The two Rakhine townships along with adjacent Maungdaw township were the focal points of a brutal military crackdowns on Rohingya Muslims in 2016 and 2017, which together left thousands dead and forced more than 800,000 members of the minority group across the border and into Bangladesh.

The AA has not signed the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement, which 10 other ethnic armies have inked, because of the ongoing hostilities with the national military.

Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Nandar Chann. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.