The Arakan Army (AA) has warned that Myanmar’s regime is risking an armed conflict in Rakhine State by violating a ceasefire agreement.
The military and AA engaged in fierce fighting from late 2018 to November 2020. After approximately 18 months of relative calm, the two sides clashed again from August to November last year before declaring an unofficial truce after mediation by Yohei Sasakawa, Japan’s special envoy to Myanmar.
The ceasefire came after the junta blockaded main roads and waterways in northern Rakhine for more than two months, blocking food and medicine supplies.
Farmers also could not harvest rice in parts of the state because of indiscriminate junta shelling.
The ceasefire was agreed on humanitarian grounds and the regime agreed to stop arrests, release innocent civilians and lift travel restrictions, AA spokesman Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.
“The regime has violated the agreement. It has imprisoned civilians on terrorism charges,” he said.
The regime has detainees charged under Unlawful Association Act or Counterterrorism Law over alleged ties to the AA.
A senior clerk from Thandwe District General Administration Department was given a two-year sentence on July 7 for sedition. He was detained in November last year and charged under the Unlawful Association Act.
Six Taungup Township residents were sentenced by the junta-controlled Thandwe District Court on July 11 to four years in prison under the Counterterrorism Law.
Buthidaung Township Court last week charged two village administrators under the Unlawful Association Act over alleged ties to the AA.
They were detained last September.
“We constantly ask for their release. It is totally unacceptable that they are jailing them despite our requests. The regime must stop this, otherwise it might lead to armed conflict,” he told The Irrawaddy.
The regime continues to restrict the delivery of goods by roads and waterways in the state with approval needed from the junta’s security and border affairs minister to bring goods into Rakhine State.
Tensions rose when junta troops attempted to enter AA territory in Rathedaung and Kyauktaw townships on the pretext of delivering aid after Cyclone Mocha, said residents. The majority of victims have received little humanitarian aid since the storm in May.
Rakhine politician U Pe Than said: “Myanmar’s military is seeking to survey AA areas on the pretext of helping the victims of Cyclone Mocha. They were trying to survey the area for military reasons.
“But they don’t really want to fight the AA. There are checkpoints manned by the AA on public roads and the regime could attack them if it wants a fight.”
Observers say fighting is possible at any time with no concrete political agreement.
During the latest fighting in Rakhine, the regime has prosecuted around 100 people with most verdicts still pending amid complaints of unexplained delays by relatives.