Military uses waterways to step up Maungdaw operations as Arakan Army seizes territory

The Arakan Army (AA) overran a military base in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw on Thursday evening, one day after some 500 junta reinforcement troops were sent to the township by boat to avoid AA-controlled land routes. 

The Mee Taik village base, located near Milestone 37 of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border fence and two miles east of Taungpyo town, was seized by the AA in an intense 20-minute exchange of fire, according to a source close to the ethnic armed organisation. 

“The battle was very serious. We could hear machine guns and automatic rifles going off, and heavy weapons,” the source said. 

Employing military airstrikes and shelling in an attempt to stop the AA advance, the 100 soldiers stationed at Mee Taik were still forced to retreat, locals said. 

“The military was firing heavy artillery from Taungpyo. A junta aircraft was also seen leaving Buthidaung Township and heading towards the battle,” a local man told Myanmar Now, adding that the residents of Mee Taik village had fled their homes when the fighting began.

Mee Taik is the third Maungdaw base that the AA has managed to seize in the last two weeks. The armed group also maintains control over several main roads in the region. The junta has responded by using boats to transport its troops and supplies to northern Rakhine State. 

“We have heard that the AA has control over the majority of places in northern Maungdaw Township, so the military can’t come overland anymore,” another local man said.

One day before the Mee Taik base was attacked by the AA, residents of the state capital of Sittwe said that they saw some 500 Myanmar army soldiers heading up the Rakhine coast towards Maungdaw. The three marine vessels carrying them reportedly left the Shwe Mingan port that night.

The Kissapanadi ships used to transport the soldiers were donated by Japan to Myanmar for public use starting in 2017, despite reports that they were most recently used for military purposes.

The vessels were seen stopping in the Kanyin Chaung Economic Zone in Maungdaw, then continuing towards Taungpyo.

Local military council officials reportedly summoned Sittwe ferry owners to a meeting on Thursday, calling for a halt to operations, according to local sources.

Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify this at the time of reporting, but at least one local company subsequently announced the cancellation of trips due citing orders from the junta-run marine administration department. 

While Myanmar Now was not able to reach AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha for comment on the developments in northern Rakhine, the armed group released a statement warning that the military had been sending reinforcements using both marine vessels and civilian vehicles, and that starting on Wednesday the AA would be conducting searches on both land and water in an attempt to intercept these movements. 

They warned that battles could escalate in northern Rakhine if the junta troops arrived. 

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