The war in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State is likely to intensify as more government forces have been deployed to the area in the wake of rebel attacks on police stations, The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar website, reported on January 10.
Thirteen policemen were killed and nine injured in the attacks, which were carried on January 4 – Myanmar’s independence day – by the Arakan Army (AA), a local rebel group fighting for autonomy for the state.
The Irrawaddy quoted AA commander Tun Myat Naing as saying that government soldiers “are coming by air and by road” and justified the raids because police units based in the area had helped the Myanmar Army attack the AA in December.
Also on January 10, Reuters quoted Knut Ostby, the head of the United Nations in Myanmar, as saying that 4,500 civilians in the same area have been displaced since December. He also urged both sides to ensure the protection of civilians and to respect human rights.
At a meeting in the capital Naypyitaw, military chiefs and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi called for the armed forces to “crush” the rebels.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay also accused the AA of having ties to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a claim vehemently denied by AA.
ARSA is an armed group among the Muslim Rohingya population in areas bordering Bangladesh, while AA draws its recruits from the Buddhist majority of the state.
Both groups, however, use the old name “Arakan” rather than the new term “Rakhine” for the state. AA was founded in 2009 by 26 Arakanese, or Rakhine, and now has several thousand well-equipped soldiers.