A brief clash took place between the junta and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State’s Myebon Township on Tuesday afternoon, according to local sources including a former lawmaker.
Pe Than, who once was Myebon’s elected Lower House parliamentarian from the Arakan National Party, told Myanmar Now on Tuesday evening that the fighting took place that afternoon around a quarter-mile from the road connecting Myebon with Minbya township, both in Mrauk-U District.
The junta column involved had been stationed in the 800-household Wet Gaung village, some six miles north of Myebon’s administrative centre, he said.
“The clash lasted for only five minutes and I don’t think they got to fight at close range,” Pe Than said. “I don’t know which side initiated the attack. The villagers said that they heard five to six artillery shells being fired and 10 to 20 gunshots.”
A resident of Wet Gaung confirmed that the clash took place, and that a unit of Myanmar army troops had been occupying a former makeshift hospital south of the village for days.
“The AA and the village administrator went to the hospital and told the junta column to leave as they wanted to avoid local youth having problems with the junta during the Thingyan celebrations,” the villager explained, referring to the mid-April festival taking place at the time of reporting.
“The junta column submitted the request to the higher authorities and headed towards the hill located west of the hospital. However, the AA did not want to let them go there either,” he added.
Fighting started after members of the military opened fire from the base of the hill, the local man said.
Civilians from the surrounding communities reportedly fled to nearby towns fearing more clashes would follow in the area.
“The women and children from the neighbouring villages are now fleeing towards Myebon and Minbya as they do not dare to stay here anymore. They got extremely scared when they heard the heavy artillery shells,” the villager said.
Myanmar Now was unable to obtain comment from either the Arakan Army or the junta’s spokesperson regarding the reports of the clash.
Fighting has been breaking out between the two forces since earlier this year. The military recently sent major reinforcements to Rakhine State and have increased their activities particularly in the state’s northern regions.
At the AA’s 13th anniversary commemoration on Sunday, the ethnic armed organisation’s commander told troops to “be ready to go to war.”