Preventing in Maungdaw: A Strategic Turning Level in Western Myanmar?

On the morning of September 16, round two months after intensive clashes resumed between the Arakan Military (AA) and the Myanmar navy in northern Rakhine State, Bri. Gen. Dr. Nyo Twan Awng, the AA’s deputy commander in chief, shared a message to the Rakhine individuals via his social media accounts. The message described the return to struggle towards the junta as “a closing struggle and decisive struggle” for constructing “the state of the Arakan.”

The AA, the armed wing of the United League of Arakan (ULA), was fashioned by 26 Rakhine youths in April 2009 in Laiza, in northern Myanmar’s Kachin State, below the steerage of the Kachin Independence Military (KIA). In early 2015, the AA moved to Rakhine and commenced partaking in clashes with the Myanmar navy in Kyauktaw township and Paletwa township in neighboring Chin State. Preventing escalated late in 2018 and raged till simply earlier than the nationwide election in November 2020.

Simply earlier than the election, and three months earlier than the Myanmar navy overthrew the elected civilian authorities led by Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on February 1, 2021, the AA agreed to a casual ceasefire in Rakhine, brokered by a Japanese peace envoy. After the coup, the AA initially averted combating in Rakhine, as a substitute taking the chance to construct up its navy energy and lengthen its administration within the areas below its management. Six months later, the group claimed it had de facto management over two-thirds of Rakhine State, and to have 30,000 troops below arms, together with at the least 6,000 in areas managed by its allies in Kayin, Kachin, and Shan states, in addition to elsewhere in Myanmar.

In early June, the tensions between the AA and junta regime grew due after the navy regime bolstered its troop presence throughout Rakhine State and the AA refused an invite to participate in junta-brokered peace talks within the capital Naypyidaw. Because the scenario escalated, the deputy chief of the junta administration throughout a go to to Rakhine ordered his troops to be “able to struggle any time.”

Quickly after, junta forces started arresting dozens of individuals affiliated with the AA in Mrauk-U, Sittwe, Kyauktaw, and Ponnagyun townships, blocked the gates of those cities, and carried out common checks of resorts, guesthouses, and residences in the hunt for AA/ULA members. The AA responded by arresting at the least 20 junta personnel within the areas of Rakhine State below its management.

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These tit-for-tat strikes culminated within the navy regime launching an airstrike on July 4 towards an AA base in a territory managed by the Karen Nationwide Union in Kayin State, near the border with Thailand, killing at the least six troopers and injuring many others. Twelve days later, the AA launched a retaliatory assault towards junta forces in northern Maungdaw township near the Bangladeshi border, killing at the least 4, injuring many others and capturing at the least 14 alive. Since then, a sequence of armed clashes have taken place throughout Rakhine, particularly in northern Maungdaw township and neighboring Paletwa township of Chin State.

Preventing in Northern Maungdaw

Based mostly on native information studies and statements from the AA, the creator has recognized at the least 18 areas in Maungdaw township, together with 16 within the northern a part of the township, which have seen clashes between the AA and junta forces since July 16. The AA has killed at the least 100 junta troopers and seized dozens of weapons whereas at the least 36 junta outposts and camps in Rakhine and Paletwa township, Chin State have been destroyed,  together with at the least 31 in northern Maungdaw. Practically 200 junta outposts and camps, together with these of border guard forces, are estimated to have been stationed in Maungdaw alone, together with greater than 8,000 troops instantly commanded from a headquarters in Kyee Kan Pyin.

The AA additionally not too long ago seized three tactical navy camps, specifically the Gentle Infantry Battalion No. 352 about three kilometers southeast of Jeitchaung village, a border police outpost close by milestone 40 of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, and Mee Taik station close to milestone 37 of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, two miles east of Taungpyo city. If the 4 remaining main Myanmar navy camps have been seized or overrun by the AA, the group may declare efficient management over all the township.

On August 23, the AA issued an announcement, observing that “navy tensions are escalating daily and the theater of struggle is increasing in Rakhine,” and asserting that the junta has been mobilizing its troops and bringing in reinforcements and extra weapons. The AA additionally urged individuals to not journey close to junta and border guard outposts and checkpoints, certainly, to not journey in any respect besides in instances of life-threatening and well being emergencies. It mentioned that individuals ought to notify the related AA and ULA places of work prematurely if they should journey.

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Since clashes with the AA, junta forces have launched each airstrikes and heavy artillery assaults towards the AA in a bid to take again their misplaced outposts and camps, and it has despatched at the least 800 extra troops to northern Maungdaw. Lots of the residents who have been arrested by the junta troops within the space are believed to have been used as human shields throughout assaults on close by AA posts. Moreover, the junta has warned Rakhine and Rohingya, in addition to civilians of different ethnicities, to stay of their villages and to report on AA troop actions. They’ve additionally been warned nor to put up something on social media or document the motion of Myanmar navy personnel.

In the course of the combating earlier this month, a lot of mortar shells fired by the junta landed throughout the Bangladeshi border. Consequently, the Bangladesh authorities has issued at the least three official protests to the junta-appointed Myanmar ambassador. On September 16, Myanmar mortars fell in Bindrabin District, Bangladesh, killing a 17-year-old Rohingya refugee  and injuring at the least 5 others.

The latest combating between the AA and the junta has in the meantime displaced greater than 7,000 individuals in northern Rakhine, primarily individuals from Maungdaw. The navy regime has blocked the United Nations and worldwide NGOs from accessing the northern a part of Rakhine State. Likewise, the AA additionally issued an announcement, mentioning that each one autos transferring alongside rivers and roads in Rakhine State can be checked in keeping with the navy’s wants.

A Strategic Turning Level?

There are a selection of explanation why the renewed combating in Maungdaw may have outsized strategic impacts for the AA’s long run ambition of making “an unbiased Arakan.” To its east, the township borders Paletwa, Chin State, which occupies an essential part of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Undertaking, an infrastructure undertaking which is being developed by the Indian authorities. The undertaking will join the jap Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe by sea, after which to Paletwa township by way of the Kaladan River, after which by highway to Mizoram state in Northeast India.

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On August 11, a ULA spokesperson mentioned in an internet press convention that the group had had some negotiations with the federal government of India on the Kaladan undertaking. Two weeks later, Bibekananda Bhattamishra, India’s consul-general within the state capital Sittwe spoke at a gathering with Rakhine State-based businessmen, throughout which he talked about that the highway part of the Kaladan undertaking was virtually full. Management of Maungdaw would put the ULA in place to interact brazenly with the Indian authorities over the Kaladan improvement, one thing that New Delhi would doubtless be unable to keep away from.

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Second, if the AA established its management over Maungdaw, the group may resolve to cooperate with the United Nations specialists investigating the massacres and compelled displacement of Rohingya civilians from the area. Maungdaw was as soon as residence to round 750,000 Rohingya, who fled to Bangladesh after allegedly genocidal assaults by the Myanmar navy in 2017. In September 2019, the AA despatched two Myanmar troopers who admitted to collaborating within the allegedly genocidal killings of Rohingya households, together with girls and infants, to the Worldwide Legal Courtroom (ICC) at The Hague. The troopers had been captured by the AA some months earlier. In October of that 12 months, the AA and two allies issued an announcement supporting makes an attempt to prosecute the Myanmar navy for abuses, together with these dedicated towards Rakhine State’s “Muslim minority.”

Lastly, Maungdaw township is the primary financial and commerce conduit between Rakhine State and Bangladesh. Due to this fact, the AA’s makes an attempt to regulate the township displays its need to interact brazenly with the Bangladesh authorities in border commerce, and for the potential future repatriation of Rohingya refugees. By each of those interactions, the group may construct relationship with the worldwide neighborhood – an integral a part of its ambition of being handled because the area’s professional authorities. This week, the AA/ULA announced that it might cooperate within the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, on the situation that  overseas governments acknowledge it because the professional authorities of Rakhine State.

For all of those causes, the navy junta will undoubtedly defend Maungdaw and struggle fiercely to retake misplaced floor. However how lengthy its remaining territories may be defended stays an open query. The Myanmar navy is presently combating a multifront struggle with the remainder of the nation ‘s resistance forces, creating a chance for the Arakan Military to ascertain its unchallenged management over Maungdaw – and notch a big milestone on its path towards independence.