Myanmar’s military is sending more troops into Rakhine state, fearing an informal ceasefire with the Rakhine Army (AA) is on the verge of collapsing.
A submarine arrived in Kyauk Phyu township on May 31, after crossing the Bay of Bengal and up the Than Zit River, according to locals. They said a warship arrived the next day.
A resident, who declined to be named for security reasons, told Myanmar’s RFA service that the ship was equipped with heavy artillery and helicopter landing pads.
“The warship is huge,” the resident said. “It docked at Kyauk Phyu port number three and I saw soldiers disembark. I don’t know how many there were but I estimate there were hundreds of soldiers on board.
The two ships moved to Port Number 15 of Thit Pote Taung Naval Base in Kyauk Phyu after the troops landed.
The township is home to one of China’s largest infrastructure projects in Myanmar, including the deep-sea port of Kyauk Phyu.
The resident speculated that the troop reinforcements had been sent to protect China’s business interests amid fears of further clashes between the military and the AA.
“There are a lot of Chinese projects here,” the local said. “The construction of deep-sea ports for docking submarines has also been carried out by Chinese companies. So if the fighting escalates, I think the military is deployed to protect China’s economic projects.
Some residents told RFA they feared being able to get basic supplies such as rice, cooking oil and salt following the military build-up.
Contacted by RFA, a junta spokesman denied that more troops had arrived on May 31. At a press conference on May 19, he said the military could not be blamed if fighting broke out in Rakhine state.
Military tensions between the military council and the AA have been high since early May, with Rakhine residents and politicians fearing the fighting could soon escalate.
An NGO monitoring the crisis released a report on Wednesday urging the two sides to refrain from fighting. The International Crisis Group (ICG) said the people of Rakhine State would suffer if the war between the army and AA breaks out again.
New clashes could affect 3 million Rakhine residents
AA began as a resistance group in 2009 and has grown into a powerful ethnic army. He fought a two-year war with the Myanmar military, which ended with an informal ceasefire in November 2020. The ceasefire has still not been formalized and the AA says that it remains determined to establish an independent state for the Rakhine ethnic group.
Clashes between AA fighters and the army in two villages near Paletwa township on May 26 raised fears that the uneasy truce was on the verge of collapse.
A resumption of full-scale conflict between the army and the Rakhine Army could endanger the lives of millions of ethnic minority residents of Rakhine State, according to the ICG. He said AA moves to gain territory in the north are likely to affect the lives of as many as 3 million ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya. The ICG’s senior adviser for Myanmar, Tom Kean, told RFA that the humanitarian consequences would likely be worse than during the two-year war.
Myanmar’s National Unity Shadow Government (NUG) has invited the AA to join an alliance of regional armies to fight the army, which the IGC says could also lead to an escalation of violence in the country. Rakhine State.