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1/10/2019 Gov’t Accuses AA of Having Ties with ARSA

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Gov’t Accuses AA of Having Ties with ARSA

 AA troops on the march / AA Info Desk

By THE IRRAWADDY 7 January 2019

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1/10/2019 Gov’t Accuses AA of Having Ties with ARSA

YANGON—The Myanmar President’s Office on Monday accused the Arakan Army (AA),


an ethnic Rakhine armed group responsible for last week’s deadly attacks on four
police outposts, of having ties to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a
Rohingya insurgent group denounced by the government as a terrorist organization.

The AA has been fighting Myanmar government forces in northern Rakhine State for
several years with the aim of establishing a federal state system. Since last month, it
has intensified its military activities.

ARSA launched a series of attacks on police outposts in 2017 in northern Rakhine,


claiming it was defending the rights of Rohingya Muslims. The attack led to clearance
operations by security forces that prompted nearly 700,000 Rohingya to flee to nearby
Bangladesh.

President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay said at a press conference on Monday


that AA and ARSA officials met in Ramu, Bangladesh in July last year. He said the
government had learned from sources that the meeting was likely held to discuss the
groups’ respective areas of control within Myanmar.

“We learned they agreed that areas west of the Mayu mountain range [close to
Bangladesh] would be controlled by ARSA, while areas to the east would be for the
AA,” he said. The spokesperson added that the AA currently has two bases on the
Bangladeshi side of the border, while ARSA has three. The Myanmar government has
lodged a complaint with Bangladesh over the issue, he said.

Citing a different source, he said the two organizations have a common interest in the
illegal drug trade, but didn’t elaborate. Northern Rakhine is notorious for frequent
seizures of huge amount of yaba and other drugs.

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1/10/2019 Gov’t Accuses AA of Having Ties with ARSA

“I think the recent [AA] attacks [on police outposts] are the outcome of their meetings in
July,” said U Zaw Htay, adding that the Myanmar government had ordered the military
to implement effective counter-insurgency measures against the AA.

AA spokesperson U Khaing Thukha denied the accusations, saying his organization


had nothing to do with ARSA and was not involved in any illegal businesses, including
drug trafficking.

“We have our own mission. The Myanmar government is trying to ruin our image by
saying that we have an affiliation with ARSA. It’s dirty politics by them to portray us a
terrorist organization,” he said.

U Maung Maung Soe, an expert on ethnic affairs in Myanmar, told The Irrawaddy he
was doubtful that the AA would be affiliated with ARSA, as the AA’s stated cause is the
protection of the Rakhine people and their state.

“So, alleging a connection with ARSA is the best way to attack AA politically. It won’t
solve the problem [however],” he said.

The President’s Office spokesperson urged the AA to end its alleged alliance with
ARSA, and invited them to join peace talks. The AA has not officially joined the
government’s peace process, but has held informal meetings with its Peace
Commission.

“AA has to decide what they want to see for Rakhine State’s future. I want to ask them
whether they want to see Rakhine State caught in a vicious cycle of war.”

The Irrawaddy reporter Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint contributed to this report.

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1/10/2019 Gov’t Accuses AA of Having Ties with ARSA

Topics: Arakan Army, ARSA, Bangladesh, Ethnic Conflict, Peace Process, Rakhine, Rohingya

The Irrawaddy
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