Another Myanmar battalion routed in Rakhine as AA eyes state capital

The ethnic Arkan Army (AA) seized another Myanmar military battalion base amid an escalating offensive in Rakhine State on Tuesday, The Irrawaddy reports.

The AA said it defeated Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 540 after several days of fighting in historic Mrauk-U Township, where it has also besieged bases belonging to LIBs 377 and 778.

The battalions have been shelling Mrauk-U Archaeological Museum, historic monasteries and other religious and cultural heritage in the township, the ancient capital of Rakhine.

AA forces took complete control of LIB 540 headquarters at 11.45 pm on Tuesday, the ethnic army said.

It is now targeting the remaining two military bases and other junta outposts in the township.

The AA is a member of the Brotherhood Alliance, which also includes the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Since launching Operation 1027 on Oct 27 last year, the ethnic alliance has seized most of northern Shan State including some 20 towns and vital trade routes with China.

The alliance halted its offensive in the second week of January after agreeing a China-brokered ceasefire deal with the military regime.

However, the AA has been conducting a large-scale offensive across northern Rakhine and Paletwa in neighboring Chin State since Nov 13, as part of Operation 1027.

It has also allied with People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) and the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to attack regime targets in Kachin State and upper Sagaing Region.

The ethnic alliance said clashes were ongoing in Rakhine’s coastal Ramree on Wednesday as AA troops attacked regime reinforcements sent to the town. AA troops reported seizing weapons and ammunition and finding soldiers’ bodies as they advanced across the island township.

After suffering defeat on the ground, junta aircraft and gunboats again pounded Ramree town on Wednesday. Ramree borders Kyaukphyu, the site of a China-backed deep-sea port and special economic zone.

Wednesday morning also saw clashes erupt further up the coast, close to the state capital of Sittwe, with AA forces engaging regime troops in Ponnagyun Township.

Junta troops retreated from the battle site, located between Aung Zaya and Aung Myay Kone villages, under covering fire from aircraft and artillery units.

Earlier the same morning, regime soldiers had arrived by ship and torched the entire village of Sar Kone Boke in Pannagyun. The area around the village was simultaneously shelled around 100 times by military gunboats and Police Attack Battalion 12 based in Sittwe, the ethnic alliance said.

Clashes were also reported on Wednesday in Rakhine’s Minbya, Kyauktaw and Rathedaung townships.

The AA has seized over 160 junta positions, including Pauktaw town near Sittwe and Paletwa Township in Chin State, since it expanded Operation 1027 to Rakhine on Nov 13.

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