Regime forces have abandoned seven bases in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township amid growing tensions in the region, according to the Arakan Army (AA).
AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha made the claim at a press conference held on Thursday.
“We didn’t seize control of those bases, the junta soldiers who were stationed in them just left,” he said, adding that there have been numerous clashes in the area since last month.
According to Khaing Thukha, tensions began to escalate after AA troops captured 14 junta personnel, including a police major and members of a regime-backed Border Guard Force, on July 18.
Since then, he said, there has been almost continuous fighting in Maungdaw and in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township.
Khaing Thukha said that on several occasions, soldiers who left the bases were arrested by AA forces as retaliation for the detention of civilians accused of associating with the group.
He added that there are currently around 50 such individuals in junta custody. Many, he said, have been tortured and are facing criminal charges.
“They just make up excuses to arrest anyone they please,” said Khaing Thukha, adding that the AA has been making efforts through an unnamed third-party organisation to win the release of the prisoners.
Meanwhile, he urged members of the public to exercise caution when travelling, as the military continues to make arrests.
“We are having problems because the military is oppressing civilians in various ways. I just want to warn the public to be very careful while travelling,” he said.
Although the AA and the military entered into an informal ceasefire agreement in November 2020 after two years of fierce fighting, clashes have resumed since late last year.
Since then, the situation has steadily deteriorated. The arrest of several AA negotiation officers in May signalled another dramatic decline in trust between the two sides.
Khiang Thukha also warned on Thursday that “serious action” would be taken against junta-appointed officials in Rakhine State if they continued to cooperate with the regime.
Others who collaborate with the military should also be prepared to face consequences, he added.
“We will take necessary action against anyone who works for the regime, because they are one of the reasons that the military is able to terrorise civilians the way they do,” he said.
Myanmar’s junta has not commented on the recent situation in Rakhine State or responded to the AA’s claims.