A port town has been seized by an armed group representing a Myanmar ethnic minority after a prolonged series of intense clashes with military forces loyal to the junta.
As of Wednesday evening, the Arakan Army (AA) has declared full control over Pauktaw, a town of 20,000 residents located near a crucial deepwater port in the capital of western Rakhine state.
The capture of Pauktaw by the Arakan Army fighters in November led to a temporary collapse of the fragile ceasefire that had been mostly upheld since the military coup in 2021.
New military gates and checkpoints severely restricted travel between Sittwe and Pauktaw. The temporary capture of Pauktaw by Arakan Army fighters in November resulted in the momentary collapse of the fragile ceasefire that had been upheld since the military coup in 2021.
According to an anonymous source close to the Arakan Army, the junta troops departed from the town via boat on the evening of January 19. This information was shared with AFP, highlighting the secretive nature of the sources identity. AFP could not verify the claim made by the Arakan Army, and sporadic and undependable connections marked the communication situation in Pauktaw.
The junta has not commented on recent clashes in Pauktaw. Pauktaw, located 25 kilometers (16 miles) east of the state capital Sittwe, has experienced a mass exodus of around 18,000 people due to the intensifying fighting in the region as per the United Nations Report back in November 2023.
The ongoing clashes in Rakhine are accompanied by accusations from the military and ethnic minority armed groups in northern Shan state, blaming each other for violating a ceasefire facilitated by China. According to the Arakan Army, a resident was killed and three others were severely wounded when a naval vessel belonging to the junta fired shells into Thaedan village in Minbya Township around 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Arakan Army has been involved in an intermittent struggle for many years, aiming to achieve more self-rule for the ethnic Rakhine community in the region. Together with various other armed factions representing ethnic minorities, they have been in opposition with the Myanmar military since the nation became independent.
While some groups desire greater independence, others are primarily motivated by the desire to control the trade of jade, drugs, and timber in their territories. The conflict between the military and resistance forces is expected to persist throughout 2024. The NUG's strategic approach, known as "all roads lead to Nay Pyi Taw," has compelled the military to intensify its efforts in fortifying the capital city. This is primarily due to the growing concern of infiltration by the resistance forces, which poses a significant threat to the security of Nay Pyi Taw.
Image Credit: The Diplomat
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