Locals trapped as Arakan Army clashes with junta soldiers in Maungdaw 

The Arakan Army (AA) clashed with the junta’s forces in northern Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township on Sunday, trapping locals in the area as tensions between the two sides once again spilled over more than a year after the start of a ceasefire. 

There was fighting in three areas of the township around the villages of Thinbawhla and Mee Taik, with both sides using heavy and light weapons, several locals told Myanmar Now.     

“The battle near inner Thinbawla village and the battle between Thinbawla and Mee Taik stopped at around 5pm,” one villager said on Sunday evening. “The battle in the hills to the east of Mee Taik is still going on and we can still hear the noises now.”

Another local said that he spoke to others who were less than a mile from the fighting and could see and hear heavy and light weapons being used. 

Locals said the junta’s forces have blocked exits to the villages, trapping residents inside.  

Khaing Thukha, the AA’s spokesperson, could not be reached for comment on Sunday. He said earlier that an AA soldier died during a clash with the military on Friday and that the AA would take “necessary action.”

The AA and the military were locked in fierce fighting for two years until just before the 2020 general election. A year later, locals in Rakhine reported a new clash between the two groups.  

After last February’s coup, the AA was an outlier among the country’s ethnic armed groups, sitting out of the nationwide armed struggle against the junta while seeking to strengthen its administrative power across Rakhine. 

But tensions with the military have been rising in Rakhine for months and the junta has reportedly been sending reinforcements to the state recently. Last month there was a standoff between AA troops and junta soldiers near Kyauktaw. 

A resident from the border area of Taung Pyo said guards at a checkpoint along the road leading to Kyein Chaung, also known as Boli Bazaar, had recently started arming themselves with grenades.

“The border guards at the checkpoint had a lot of grenades attached to them and were holding grenades in their hands. Things are getting really bad,” said the resident.

The junta has imposed restrictions that bar people from travelling to the upper part of Kyein Chaung for a month. Staff for local governmental departments who travelled south to Maungdaw to collect their salaries are now having difficulties returning home.    

“They restricted the express buses from going to upper Kyein Chaung for a month,” said an education department employee. “Those travelling in their own cars will have to face a lot of security checks as well.” 

Hundreds of junta soldiers entered Hpon Nyo Leik village in Buthidaung Township on Sunday morning, searched several locals and detained a man for interrogation, a resident of the village said. 

“He’s now been released, we still don’t know why or what they wanted to ask him,” the resident said. 

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