Muslim insurgents back in the game in Myanmar's Rakhine state: report
15 January 2019
A year after Muslim insurgents under the banner of Aarakan Army unsuccessfully fought Myanmar’s military in the western state of Rakhine, the government says the rebels are at it again and have killed 13 police officers early this month, forcing the military to “crush” the rebels.
Fighting between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army, which recruits from ethnic groups in the mainly Buddhist Rakhine state, has forced about 5,000 people from their homes in the past month, according to the United Nations.
The latest violence underscores the complexity of the ethnic divisions that have long scarred Rakhine. In 2017 attacks on security posts in the north of the state by
Insurgents from the Muslim Rohingya minority provoked a military crackdown in 2017 by killing Buddhist natives and fighting the military which led to more than 730,000 fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh, sparking the biggest refugee crisis for the newly-elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Stepped up insurgency has forced the military to intervene and trucks carrying troops have been seen arriving in Rakhine since early January, say aid workers.
The Arakan Army, which claims to represent largely immigrant Muslim population the Rakhine state, says it was formed nearly a decade ago to fight for self-determination for Rakhine.
The early recruits also included ethnic Rakhine Buddhists who had migrated to northern Myanmar seeking work in the jade mines there.
They joined forces with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the largest ethnic armed groups still fighting the Myanmar military along Myanmar’s border with China as part of a “northern alliance” in northern Shan state since late 2016.
Arakan Army forces have also moved into the rugged western borderlands with India and Bangladesh, where they are believed to number about 3,000.
In parallel, the group has launched a propaganda push aimed at inspiring an uprising across Rakhine in 2020.
For propaganda sake, the Arakan Army steers clear of the communal conflict between Buddhists and Muslims and instead appeals to a sense of economic and historical injustice directed at the Myanmar state and its Bamar ethnic majority.
Though rich in oil and other natural resources, Rakhine remains one of Myanmar’s poorest states.