A temporary ceasefire agreed to by Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA) late last month has done little to ease tensions in northern Rakhine State, according to local sources.
At an online press conference on November 28, AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha noted that the truce, which went into effect four days earlier, did not stipulate the withdrawal of AA troops from their positions in the field.
“Our troops are still deployed where they were originally deployed and have just stopped shooting. The other situations remain unchanged,” he said.
The most important development since the start of the truce has been the reopening of major waterways that were closed in recent months amid ongoing clashes.
However, while marine connections between the state capital Sittwe and other coastal communities have been restored, the junta is still blocking roads to and from Sittwe, locals reported.
“The military has completely blocked the Sittwe-Kyauktan gate, so we can’t go into or out of Sittwe at all,” said a resident of Kun Taung, a village about 15km north of Sittwe in Ponnagyun Township.
Meanwhile, AA checkpoints also remain in place, but are not restricting inhabitants’ movements so severely, he added.
“Although the AA’s security gates are still operating in Ponnagyun, they aren’t blocking the roads at all, so we can still travel through that area,” said the Kun Taung villager.
Tensions are also high in other parts of the state. In Minbya and Mrauk U townships, regime forces continue to conduct house searches and “security checks” on pedestrians, according to a prominent Rakhine politician.
“The arson attacks and heavy artillery shelling have stopped, but they are still making arrests,” said Pe Than, a former MP for the Arakan National Party who has been in hiding since he was charged with incitement in September.
Asked if he expected the truce to hold, he told Myanmar Now that it was difficult to speculate, but added that clashes could break out again “if the current situation doesn’t ease.”
In a statement released last Wednesday, the AA said it has been helping local farmers in several townships—including Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk U and Minbya—to harvest paddy as part of the truce agreement.
It also stated that residents of Ponnagyun previously displaced by conflict with the junta had been resettled in their home villages.