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“Several” Burmese army personnel, including a commanding officer, have been killed during a skirmish with ethnic rebels the Arakan Army (AA), according to military media.
The fiery report published today vowed that the Burmese army would “exterminate” the rebel group.
Fighting between the AA and Naypyidaw troops erupted in Burma’s westernmost state late last year, with at least 15 clashes reported between 28 December 2015 and 4 January 2016.
On 7 January, military-backed Myawady media reported that fresh hostilities had erupted in Kyauktaw when the army moved in on territory occupied by the Arakan militia.
The military mouthpiece claimed several Burmese soldiers, including the commanding officer, were shot dead by snipers. The rebels suffered three casualties, according to the report which stated that firearms and ammunition were also seized from abandoned AA positions. Myawady claimed that fleeing rebel troops had hid among local villagers in Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U and Minbya townships.
Army representatives told Myawaddy media that the AA had abducted seven civilians as hostages during their retreat. They suspect the militia of meeting with “terrorist groups and illegal armed organisations, asking for assistance” to the west of Arakan State, which borders both Bangladesh and India. The Burmese-language report published by Myawady referred to the cross-border based militias as “Bad Kalars”, using a pejorative Burmese term for Muslim or dark-skinned people.
The military vowed to push the AA out of Arakan State, in what it says is necessary to ensure stability in the region. The Myawady report claimed that “that the majority of [AA] members that joined the group held no political beliefs but were forced to join the group under threats and due to social problems.”
The Arakan Army has participated in two years worth of peace talks with Naypyidaw, and was a member of the now-defunct ethnic envoy body the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team. The group did not accede to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed in October, after being excluded by the government.
“We were very upset because the government does not recognise our claim to membership in the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team,” Gen. Nyo Twan Awng told Reuters in April.
“The Arakan Army will be more active in Rakhine [Arakan] State in the future since our army is stronger than before. It’s time to stand along with our people,” he said at the time.