Military tells ward administrators in Rakhine towns to inform on Arakan Army 

Ward administrators in Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu Township have been warned that they must  inform the Myanmar military about the activities of the Arakan Army (AA), which has recently strengthened its influence in the region. 

The armed group and its political wing, the United League of Arakan (ULA), established its own judiciary earlier this month and has taken on other administrative roles in the state, such as imposing stay-at-home orders amid rising Covid-19 cases. 

The junta reacted to the move by strengthening its forces in the northern part of the state in the second week of August, raising fears among civilians of a return to open hostilities.

A commander from the Kyaukphyu-based 34th Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) summoned administrators on Monday, one of the officials who attended the meeting told Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity. 

“He asked us if we are aware of the ULA/AA conducting judicial matters in our neighbourhoods. I said we didn’t know. Then he told us to report to the military if the AA is going to do such things at ward administration offices,” the source said.

Other administrators based in Kyaukphyu said they had been instructed by their township administration head not to talk to the media about the matter. 

The Rakhine-based Narinjara news outlet reported on Monday that administrators from all 17 wards in downtown Kyaukphyu were called to the meeting with the commander.

Former Rakhine lawmaker Pe Than, who recently resigned from the Arakan National Party, said the AA’s Covid-19 restrictions and new judicial presence were intended to meet the needs of the public.

“I think there should not be any interference, opposition, or restriction on such efforts as they are for the benefit of the public, whether it is done by the government or the AA,” he said.

He added that ward administrators may feel conflicted and unsafe if the junta continues to interfere, which could lead to them resigning from their positions. “Then the stability of the region will be affected,” he added.

AA spokesperson Khine Thukha was not available for comment. 

After almost two years of intense fighting, the AA and the Myanmar military reached a ceasefire in November last year. Nine months on, roughly 200,000 people displaced by the fighting are still unable to return to their homes. 

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