Junta soldiers defect as military loses ground in Rakhine State, Arakan Army says

Several Myanmar army soldiers have recently surrendered to the Arakan Army (AA) as the armed group gains the upper hand in battles across northern Rakhine and southern Chin states, AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha said on Monday. 

He explained in a press conference that the military is “struggling” as their forces are spread across multiple fronts nationwide. 

“They are not able to use as much force as they did before in battles in Rakhine State,” he explained.

Fighting between the Myanmar military and the AA has intensified in recent weeks, with the junta sending in hundreds of reinforcement troops and the AA seizing multiple military bases and taking control of strategic transportation routes. Hostilities between the forces resumed earlier this year following an informal ceasefire that began in late 2020 after two years of fierce fighting. 

The AA spokesperson claimed on Monday that as a result of the AA advances, an undisclosed number of junta soldiers had also abandoned their posts. 

“Many of them have deserted and are on the run now. Many others have already contacted us to either flee or to surrender to us. We are planning to help them,” Khaing Thukha said, adding that his forces would “welcome” such troops. 

At the time of reporting, at least 10 Myanmar army soldiers, including officers, had recently surrendered to the AA in Paletwa, Chin State, following battles there. 

In June, the AA estimated that more than 100 junta troops had surrendered to them. 

Myanmar Now is unable to independently verify the AA’s reports of junta defection. 

According to locals, a Myanmar army soldier left his post in Kyauktaw Township in May, followed by two more in early September, along with three officers from a junta border police outpost in Rathedaung Township. 

Khaing Thukha speculated that the international isolation of the regime and its failure to gain ground within Myanmar against the resistance were causing members of its armed forces to lose faith in the institution. 

“Everyone can see that the military has no legitimacy and no neighbouring country is helping them. Even the junta troops are starting to lose their composure due to the military council’s incompetence,” he said.

The military recently came under criticism by neighbouring Bangladesh, whose government has claimed it will inform the UN if Myanmar does not cease shelling along its border with Rakhine State. According to a September 17 report in the Dhaka Tribune, the junta has ignored the country’s concerns.

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