Myanmar military and Arakan Army exchange prisoners in Rakhine State 

The Arakan Army (AA) and the junta’s forces carried out their second prisoner exchange this month on Sunday in northern Rakhine State’s Ponnagyun Township, local sources said. 

The handover reportedly took place along the Sittwe-Yangon highway between the villages of Pa Day Thar and Kun Taung at around 2pm. 

“Eyewitnesses said that around 10 people were released by the AA and three were released by the military, but I don’t know the exact numbers,” a resident said, adding that around 50 AA personnel came to the scene in a convoy of five vehicles and a large junta force arrived in a truck.

Villagers from Kun Taung claimed that two junta police officers were among those handed over in Sunday’s exchange. 

Calls to the AA’s information department for comment on the prisoner swap went unanswered.

Locals claimed that the exchange followed an incident involving friendly fire by the Myanmar army one night earlier, in which a unit of 60 soldiers fired shots at their post near the railway station in Kun Taung on January 14.

“We heard four gunshots at around 11pm that night. Word has it that the junta soldiers got into a drunken fight and started shooting at each other and that one died and the others fled,” another resident said. “The AA then captured those soldiers that fled from the station and exchanged them for AA troops that the junta had detained during earlier battles.”

Myanmar Now was not able to independently verify the details regarding the alleged shooting.

An earlier exchange was carried out in the same location on January 3, but little is known about the prisoners except that one AA officer was believed to be among those who were returned to the ethnic armed group.

The military and the AA entered into a temporary truce in late November last year, after serious battles broke out between the two armies in Rakhine State and adjacent areas of Chin State during the preceding months. 

They also clashed fiercely between late 2018 and early November 2020, when an earlier non-binding agreement temporarily suspended hostilities. It was still in effect when the AA and military carried out an exchange of captives in November 2021 also in Ponnagyun Township. 

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