In the night of April 9, Arakan Army (AA) attacked two Burma army (Tatmadaw) artillery bases in an attempt to destroy the 120mm guns which have been pounding their positions for days.
Brigadier-General Nyo Tun Aung said the AA attacked the No. 31 police regiment headquarters because troops from Light Infantry Division (LID) No. 22 were firing at them almost daily from the base and another Army base in Lay Hnyin Taung about 8 km from downtown Mrauk-U.
The AA claimed to have killed 20 Tatmadaw troops in the raids and said to have captured a vast amount of weapons. But by day break on April 10 the Tatmadaw reinforcement arrived and the three jet fighters bombing runs on the AA troops have forced them to retreat. During their withdrawal they have taken 7 police officers’ relatives, which was said to be taken with rescue intention as the criss-cross firefights and the Burma army jet fighters were bombing the police base directly from above without discrimination.
Tatmadaw’s Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, however, told the press quite differently. He said the AA attacked the staff quarter of the police battalion and caught some women and children.
“The AA captured women and children from the staff quarter and attacked the police using them as a human shield in front of them. When the police were reinforcement came from the army, they retreated around 5:30 am.,” he said.
AA leader Major-General Tun Myat Naing in contrast in an interview with The Irrawaddy recently on April 11 said: “Boys and girls were included but it was not arresting them. They could be killed if we leave them there when we were withdrawing as there were a lot of random shooting happening. Bombs were dropped directly on the police headquarters from the aircraft. It is an act of rescue.”
He also said that the police relatives with the AA troops were nicely treated and would hand them over as soon as possible through any organization which will guarantee their safety. However, on April 11, at 10:40 pm., all of them were safely back when they walked into Mrauk-U hospital unaccompanied, according to one of the hospital worker. Reportedly, they are being handed back to the police station.
In the same interview the AA leader said that the intention to destroy the big guns at the police headquarters and temporary Tatmadaw base near Lay Hnyin Taung village were not successful but have inflicted damages of the camps and able to capture weapons and ammunition.
On Tatmadaw’s argument that the police headquarters have no artillery and the accusation that the AA was attacking police family quarters which has nothing to do with the armed conflict, he explained. “We have evidences of when the 120mm were shot and we are not doing it without reason. Regarding our attacks on the police stations they were accusing as they wanted to portray us as terrorists. The public could make decision on who is wrong considering the bombardment with artillery from police post.”
He stressed: “ It is not good to blindly make accusation.”
The Irrawaddy interview of Tun Myat Naing aired on April 11 has now been viewed by more than 800,000 at this writing and no doubt the Tatmadaw True News Information Team accusation that the AA is a terrorist organization is being effectively countered.
Regarding the question and accusation of the AA attacking the police family quarter, it said was not the case and it is on the way in trying to reach the Tatmadaw’s artillery base. The seven police relative taken along when it troops were withdrawing were for their own safety from criss-crossing firefights and aerial bombardment. And the attacks on police stations in general are because they are being used as part of the military operation and part and parcel of the security setup under the ministry of interior. Apart from that the police stations in Arakan state are equipped with war weapons and not a ragtag security apparatus to enforce law and orders like in the big cities, explained Tun Myat Naing in his recent interview.
In his interview he chided the Tatmadaw for airing unrealistic accusation and said it should back up with solid evidence. As an example he said that raiding and burning down the whole Rohingya villages and later explained that the Rohingyas have burned down their own houses, which defies logic and are unbelievable.
As it is, the war on the ground and as well the media war will go on between the AA and the Tatmadaw. While the causalities of the combatants on both sides will increase with the widening and intensity of the armed conflict, the actual heaviest burden will continue to fall on the shoulder of the Arakan population.
True, the AA as patriotic nationalist movement will be more considerate in avoiding the collateral damage of its people, while the Tatmadaw won’t pay much attention, if incidences occurred in Mrauk-U, Si Taung and the likes where dozens civilian death and property damages inflicted by the Tatmadaw were reported and witnessed.
For now, emotional feelings are still high on both sides and the reconciliation talks are nowhere in sight. But if the Bamar power center would like to safe the union as it always has claimed, it must eventually entertain the approach of peaceful negotiation, one way or the other. Otherwise, it will be just energizing hatred and heightened the disintegration of the union which the Bamar political elite and military class wanted so much to keep it in tact.