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HomeAsiaArakan Army Intensifies Attacks in Western Myanmar, Reports Radio Free Asia

Arakan Army Intensifies Attacks in Western Myanmar, Reports Radio Free Asia

An ethnic army in Myanmar launched an attack on yet another major city in the country’s west, with the state’s capital close behind, according to locals on Thursday.

The Arakan Army, already in control of three townships in Rakhine state, began an assault on the seaside township of Rathedaung on Wednesday, residents told Radio Free Asia, adding that junta officials are retaliating in the coastal area by air, land and sea.

“The AA attacked the junta’s battalions in Rathedaung on Wednesday. The frequent sound of heavy and small weapons could be heard, and airstrikes were carried out,” said a Rathedaung resident who declined to be named for safety reasons. “The junta is shelling artillery now.”

The AA targeted Rathedaung-based junta battalions of 536, 537 and 538, according to locals. 

Calls by RFA to Rakhine’s junta spokesperson Hla Thein and national junta spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun went unanswered. 

The junta’s retaliation largely focused on civilians, township residents said, adding that troops shelled nine villages with heavy artillery near Rathedaung city. 

The AA said on Wednesday that Kha Naung Gyi, Ywar Thit Kay and Nwar Tin Koke were the first to be ambushed.

Following the cessation of a year-long ceasefire with junta troops in November, the AA has seized control of three townships – the historic capital of Mrauk-U, Minbya, and Kyauktaw. Additionally, the resistance force took over the city of Pauktaw and Taung Pyo, a military post on the Bangladesh border, alongside the adjacent city of Paletwa in Chin state.

Separately, the AA also captured Kyauktaw-based Western Regional Headquarters, one of the state’s three junta headquarters, on Monday. 

Moving South

Publications in Rakhine cited sources close to the AA stating that on Monday, the anti-junta group warned of its plans to target the Sittwe-based junta Military Regional Command Headquarters. Furthermore, the group reportedly demanded the junta’s surrender before their arrival in Rakhine state’s capital city.

Military families in Sittwe-based Military Regional Command Headquarters during the general elections on Nov. 8, 2020. (RFA)

However, the junta is not planning to surrender, said a resident in Sittwe who asked to be anonymous. 

The junta army has been preparing defensive forts and urgently moving soldiers’ family members to safer locations, he told RFA.

“There are reports that the Arakan Army is going to attack Sittwe city. Defensive forts at the battalions, nearby offices and outskirts of the city are built and prepared,” he said. “I saw that the army’s family members are being moved out towards Yangon by military [personnel] and on civilian planes. I don’t know the exact number of people, and I can’t estimate it.”

Two high-ranking junta officials are in the AA’s custody, and another two have been killed at their hands, the anti-junta group claimed in a statement on Wednesday. 

Kyauktaw-based Military Regional Operation Command Brigadier Zaw Min Tun was captured alive during a naval battle near Ah Pauk Wa village on Jan. 10. Separately, regional operation center commander Lt. Col. Nyi Nyi Win was captured with injuries on Jan. 16 and was given medical treatment.

In December, Lt. Col. Banyar Paing Soe, a commander in Paletwa township, died during a battle in Chin state’s Paletwa township. Meanwhile, Col. Min Min Tun, the commander of the 11th Regiment, died during an attack of Infantry Battalion 377 in Mrauk-U, according to the AA.

A spokesperson for the AA, Kaing Thu Kha, has not responded to RFA’s inquiries as of this writing.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Taejun Kang.

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