Arakan Army clashes with government forces in Rakhine State

The ethnic rebel group has grown from only a handful of soldiers to a formidable force of several thousand

By Bertil Lintner Chiang Mai, January 3, 2019

Myanmar’s security forces have clashed with ethnic rebels in the country’s western Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported on January 2.

The clash happened near Saytaung in Buthidaung township and involved rebels from the Arakan Army (AA) group of the Rakhine, the Buddhist majority in the state.

Rakhine State also has a Muslim minority, the Rohingya, who live in the state’s northern townships. More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled across the border into Bangladesh after an armed Rohingya group attacked police and military outposts in August 2017. The Myanmar army launched a massive offensive in the area in retaliation to the attack.

The AA, which has no connections with armed groups among the Rohingyas, was founded in April 2009 and has grown from only a handful of soldiers to a formidable force of several thousand.

It wants autonomy for Rakhine State and is allied with ethnic rebel armies in Shan and Kachin states. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on December 31 that 1,500 people were displaced by recent fighting between the AA and the Myanmar army, in addition to about 1,000 displaced since clashes broke out in the first week of December.

Rakhine State is excluded from a four-month pause in Myanmar’s civil war, which was announced by the Myanmar military in December. That pause covers only Kachin State and northern Shan State.

The article appeared in the Asia Times on 3 December 2018

Bertil Lintner
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