Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bangladesh says no talks with military after Arakan Army attack

The Bangladeshi embassy in Yangon has denied a statement by the Tatmadaw that the two sides are holding talks over how to coordinate actions against the Arakan Army, after the group claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties on Myanmar’s military last week.

The Tatmadaw said on March 6 that it was in discussions with the Bangladeshi embassy aimed at preventing the Arakan Army from grouping in the border area and, ultimately, eliminating the ethnic armed group.

But Tareque Muhammad, the Bangladeshi embassy’s deputy chief of mission in Yangon, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that no talks had been held with the Tatmadaw. He declined to comment on when talks might be held.

“Once the discussion is over, only then we can share our views,” he said.

The Arakan Army, which clashed with the Border Guards Bangladesh last August, has said it is confident of dealing with any combined assault by the Tatmadaw and Bangladeshi forces. It denies Tatmadaw claims that it has used Bangladesh as a refuge.

U Khaing Thu Kha, an official of the Arakan Army’s information department, said yesterday that they were ready to respond if attacked again by the Tatmadaw, but that the group would not initiate offensives. He said the current situation was “very quiet”.

He said the group was based around Rakhine State’s Buthidaung township and would never use Bangladeshi territory as a base for attacks inside Myanmar.

The Arakan Army claims to have killed 30 Tatmadaw soldiers on March 3 in an attack on two military vehicles of the Buthidaung-based 565th Light Infantry Battalion near the border. The Tatmadaw has not disclosed any casualties.

Fighting between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw in late December displaced several hundred civilians in northern Rakhine State.

The Arakan Army was formed in 2009 with the stated intention of achieving “self-determination for the people of Arakan”, referring to the state’s ethnic Buddhist majority. Its headquarters are based in Laiza in Kachin State where it has close ties with the Kachin Independence Army as well as ethnic Chinese rebels fighting in the Kokang border area of Shan State.

The Tatmadaw has rejected offers of talks with the Arakan Army and says its aim is to “eliminate” the armed group, which the government last year excluded from the nationwide ceasefire talks.

The government has also used state media to accuse the armed group of involvement in drug trafficking, an allegation Arakan Army leaders strongly denied. On February 28, The Global New Light of Myanmar carried a front page story with the headline “How to fund a war”.

Last week a Buthidaung court jailed four civilians for three years for “unlawful association” with the Arakan Army.