23 April 2015
An Arakanese civil society group has condemned the Burmese army for alleged attacks on civilians. Fighting that flared in Burma’s westernmost state one week ago has forced villagers to flee their homes, according to the Rakhine [Arakan] National Network [RNN].
The group’s chairman, Tin Htoo Aung, accused the Burmese army of practising scorched earth tactics as it moved through central Arakan State.
“We have reports about the Burmese army destroying and setting fire to villages in Kyauktaw Township,” He began. “We object to the targeting of the civilian population in the conflict.
“Both sides of the fighting must strictly adhere to the Geneva Convention. We strongly condemn any kind of infringement of the existence and freedom of the native population and we will prepare to take necessary action.”
The Arakan Army is party to the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, an ethnic coalition negotiating a potential ceasefire with the government.
Fighting between the rebel army and the Burma Army has cast doubt on recent successes in the nation’s peace process. Domestic and international onlookers congratulated the government, and 17 ethnic groups on the successful drafting of a ceasefire document in March. Ethnic armies will discuss its contents, before acceding to a finalised agreement. Yet the the Rakhine National Network say Naypyidaw’s attitude towards the Arakan Army is out of keeping with the good will fostered during the lengthy peace negotiations.
“The [state owned] MRTV channel on 18 April reported that Tatmadaw columns fought ‘Rakhine insurgents’ while sweeping the area and we object to the use of that term, because it implies one of Burma’s ethnic nationalities are insurgents. Instead of using the preferable term ‘armed group’, [the government] used the discriminatory word ‘insurgents’ and we see this as a violation of their own constitution and detrimental to the ethnic unity.
The Arakan Army was assembled in Laiza, the capital of Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) held territory. There, in November, eight Arakan Army trainees were among 23 killed when a Burmese army shell struck a KIO training camp.
This year, Arakan Army soliders have fought alongside Kokang rebels the Myanmar Nationalities Alliance Army, in what has been one of the most brutal recent chapters in Burma’s sixty years of civil war.
This week, battles in the northern Arakan town of Kyauktaw, as well as the Chin town of Paletwa have been the first time the rebel group has engaged government troops in its homeland.