The Arakan Army on Monday attacked a regional military training school in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, sparking fighting in nearby areas that left casualties on both sides, spokesmen from the two armies and a local lawmaker said.
The morning AA assault on the No. 9 military training school in Rakhine’s Minbya township prompted fighting between the two armies in at least three nearby locations with fatalities on both sides, said Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun.
“The AA attacked the military training school at 6 a.m.,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “They have attacked us at at least three locations.”
Myanmar forces regained control of the areas around 11 a.m., he said, adding that there were casualties on both sides and that government soldiers seized the bodies of dead AA troops and some of their weapons.
Zaw Min Tun did not provide the numbers of deaths and injuries among Myanmar soldiers and said that the military training facility is not strategically important.
AA spokesman Khine Thukha confirmed the attack on the training facility, but did not state the number of dead and injured among the ethnic army’s ranks.
The clashes took place in an area about a 15-minute drive away from Kanni village on the Yangon-Sittwe highway, a major thoroughfare in the region, and occurred as a result of a military airstrike, said Rakhine state lawmaker Hla Thein Aung of Minbya township.
“I can confirm that this armed fighting occurred in response to the military’s airstrike on the nearby area,” he told RFA.
“A villager from Oakpho Taung village told me there were heavy artillery attacks near their villages,” he added. “When I call him again, I lost the phone connection.”
Zaw Tun, secretary of Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC), a local relief group assisting some of the tens of thousands of civilians displaced by the conflict, said the military is increasingly using aircraft in its battles with the AA which have intensified since late 2018.
“Local villagers said the military has used fighter jets in some places,” he said. “They said it was three fighter jets that came one by one. They are also using the helicopters. In some places, the aircraft arrived in a group of as many as seven or eight.”
Zaw Tun predicted a further escalation of hostilities given the situation on the ground, including recent intense fighting between the AA and government troops in Paletwa township of neighboring Chin state.
Dozens of civilians have died in the regional fighting since the beginning of 2019 and more than 140,000 displaced villagers have been tallied by the REC, including ones now living in displacement camps and those who have sought shelter in monasteries and with friends and relatives.
A government-ordered internet service shutdown in eight townships in northern Rakhine and in Chin’s Paletwa township has kept residents in the dark about developments concerning the hostilities and the coronavirus pandemic as well as prevented them from conducting business.
Reported by Nay Myo Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.Print