Arakan Army warns that battles with Myanmar army could ‘resume at any time’

The Arakan Army (AA) issued a warning on Sunday that renewed clashes with junta forces were imminent. 

“For quite some time, military tension between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army has continued to grow,” the AA’s information department said on the social media platform Telegram. “Clashes can resume at any time between the two parties and thus we urge the public to avoid areas where the Myanmar army is active and where its troops are based.” 

The ethnic armed organisation cited an increase in the arrival of junta reinforcement troops as well as ongoing disruptions to and threats against the administration and jurisdiction of the AA by the military as contributing to the possibility of future fighting. 

Pe Than, a former Lower House lawmaker from Myebon in Rakhine State, described the statement as a “final warning.” 

“This time could be worse than in the past, because the warning was very strong,” he told Myanmar Now, adding that the public should take such statements seriously. 

On May 6, AA commander-in-chief Twan Mrat Naing threatened Htin Latt Oo, the head of the Myanmar army’s Western Regional Command for allegedly undermining peace in Rakhine State. 

“Htin Latt Oo, don’t mess around. I’m getting annoyed. I won’t give a sh– about peace [if you carry on in this way]. I will come to where you are and crush you,” he tweeted. 

That day, a junta column of around 50 soldiers searched homes in the village of Sar Pyin, in southern Rakhine State’s Taungup Township, looking for AA-appointed village administrators. Searches have also been reported in Ponnagyun Township and other parts of northern Rakhine State, where the AA has a much stronger presence than it does in the south. 

A Rakhine local told Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity that given the increased militarisation of the state and growing tension between the AA and the military, Sunday’s warning was not surprising.

“The military has been arresting people affiliated with the AA and terrorising people at security checkpoints on highways more frequently,” the individual explained. “I think it actually got worse after the AA chief warned the regional commander.”

Another local from Ann said that the same phenomenon had been occurring in the township, with increased military activities and the establishment of more security checkpoints. 

“Massive columns were seen leaving for operations. There are also scouts near the villages. The military has been seen traveling fully armed and fully uniformed along the highways and in urban areas until midnight,” the local man said. 

The military council has not responded to the AA statement. 

Following the AA’s threat against the military’s regional commander, junta spokesperson Gen Zaw Min Tun told BBC that the military hoped to hold “peace talks” with the AA. 

Last month, military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing invited leaders of ethnic armed organisations including the AA to attend an upcoming meeting in Naypyitaw, asking them to announce their attendance by May 9. 

The AA has not issued a public response to the invitation. 

Ten armed organisations have agreed to attend the event, according to the junta. 

Meanwhile, members of the AA leadership and the shadow National Unity Government held their first reported online conference on Monday, attended by AA chief Twan Mrat Naing and the organisation’s secretary general Dr Nyo Twan Aung. 

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