Arakan Army takes control of another police station in Myanmar’s west

The victory comes a day after the ethnic rebel army seized Mrauk-U, capital of an ancient kingdom.
By RFA Burmese
2024.02.09
Arakan Army takes control of another police station in Myanmar’s west Mrauk-U, the ancient capital of Rakhine kingdom on Dec. 21. 2019.
RFA

The Arakan Army on Friday captured a junta-manned police station in western Rakhine state’s Rathedaung township – the latest victory by the ethnic army over forces affiliated with Myanmar’s junta regime, sources told Radio Free Asia.

The Arakan Army began an attack on the Koe Tan Kauk border guard police station at a large coastal village several miles north of Sittwe, Rakhine’s state capital, on Thursday morning, according to a local resident close to the ethnic army.

Junta troops fought back with air and naval forces and heavy artillery until Friday morning.

“I can confirm that it has been taken over,” he said. “That’s why the shooting has fallen silent. They were attacking with fighter aircraft, but now they are gone.”

The capture comes on the heels of the army’s seizure Thursday of the last major junta territory in the city of Mrauk-U, the capital of an ancient kingdom with temples and other monuments that continues to have cultural relevance and is a destination for archaeologists and tourists.

That caps weeks of rapid advances by the Arakan Army, or AA, in the western part of Myanmar, that has put the military on its heels and suggests a turning point in the country’s three-year civil war that broke out after a military takeover of the democratically-elected government in February 2021.

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The junta’s Police Battalion 31 was captured in Mrauk-U on Thursday, effectively giving up control of the city to the AA which had already forced the surrender of three junta battalions in the area, according to a statement from the Three Brotherhood Alliance. 

The AA and two other rebel groups that make up the alliance have made huge gains in Rakhine and Shan states since launching its campaign at the end of October, prompting thousands of junta troops to surrender or flee to neighboring countries.

Junta troops surrender

Both junta soldiers and policemen surrendered during Thursday’s battle for Mrauk-U city, said one resident, asking to remain anonymous for security reasons.

“The fighting in Mrauk-U is over. Locals are not allowed to enter the city at the moment,” he told RFA on Friday. “I heard they surrendered. But the AA attacked the military battalions. The junta troops surrendered after the battalion commander died.”

It was unclear how many police officers and soldiers surrendered and were in Arakan Army custody, he said.

The AA currently occupies all 10 battalions formerly under control of the junta’s Kyauktaw-based No. 9 Military Operation Command Headquarters. The army also controls three townships across Rakhine: Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, and Minbya – all located in Mrauk-U district.

There are currently no military police or soldiers in those three townships, residents said, adding that most had surrendered, fled, been captured or died during battles.  

Sittwe district’s Rathedaung township is just west of Mrauk-U district. 

RFA contacted the Arakan Army’s spokesperson, Kaing Thu Kha, and Rakhine’s junta spokesperson, Hla Thein, for more information on the fighting in Mrauk-U, but neither immediately responded on Friday.

The regime has not released any information on recent fighting in Rakhine state, including Thursday’s battle in Mrauk-U.

Junta naval craft sunk

In its Thursday statement, the Three Brotherhood Alliance said that it recently sank three junta naval landing crafts and destroyed another warship in Rakhine.

Local residents told RFA that junta soldiers from the Kyauktaw battalions were retreating toward Sittwe in the Kaladan River when the AA intercepted and sank them.

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A Myanmar military vessel travels on the Mayu River in Rakhine state, Dec. 20, 2016. (RFA)

The junta has leaned heavily on its naval capabilities in Rakhine, according to Aung San Win, who observes the military situation in the state and is studying international affairs at American University.

“In a situation where both human resources and ground attacks are not favorable, they mainly rely on the navy and air force,” he told RFA. “Now I think that when the navy is being strategically attacked and destroyed, they are in a tight spot.”

With its recent victories, the AA is now in a position where it can launch offensives against Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in Maungdaw district, and Sittwe, Ponnagyun and Ann townships in Sittwe district, where the junta’s Western Command sits, Aung San Win said.

The AA could also conceivably attack Taungup and Kyaukpyu townships in southern Rakhine state, he said.

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw. Edited by Mike Firn, Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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