Fleeing Myanmar junta troops blew up bridges in Rakhine, officer confesses

The junta’s Light Infantry Battalion 36 blew up two bridges in Rakhine State last month as it was ordered to abandon a town in Taungup Township, an officer from the battalion said in a confession videotaped by the AA, The Irrawaddy reports.

Myo Khant, a warrant officer from the battalion, told his captors that his battalion blew up the bridge crossing the Ma-ei River at the entrance to Ma-ei town on Taungup-Ann Road on the night of Feb. 16 as the battalion retreated from the town, the video released by the AA on Wednesday shows.

The battalion was led by Lieutenant Colonel Thet Naing Win, Myo Khant says.

The battalion was ordered to leave its base in Ma-ei and march to Ramree town to escape an onslaught by AA troops.

Myo Khant said his battalion blew up a second bridge on the night of Feb. 16: Kyaukkyi Pauk Bridge. It crosses a tributary of the Ma-ei River on the Kyaukphyu-Ma-ei Road near Ma-ei town.

On Feb. 21, the retreating battalion arrived at the headquarters of Light Infantry Battalion 542 in Kyaukphyu Township by boat.

The prisoner of war said in the video that Lt-Col Thet Naing Win was arrested by Kyaukphyu tactical commander Colonel Wunna Aung for disobeying the order to march to Ramree.

On Feb. 23, the retreating soldiers were flown to Ramree by military transport helicopters to reinforce a unit at a hilltop base near Ramree town.

The AA troops attacked the hilltop base on Feb. 24, defeating the troops stationed at it and arrested warrant officer Myo Khant and two injured soldiers in the island township of Ramree on Feb. 25 as they were trying to flee.

Previously, the Arakan Army said about 80 of the 120 junta troops airlifted to Ramree as reinforcements were killed during three days of clashes from Feb. 24 to 26.

The ethnic army took complete control of Ramree town on Monday after three months of fighting regime forces.

On Feb. 11, junta troops also dynamited Min Chaung Bridge at an entrance to Rakhine State’s capital, Sittwe, and bombed Kisapanadi Bridge on the Yangon-Sittwe Road in Kyauktaw Township to deter AA troops from advancing on the capital.

The ethnic army has, however, taken control of two townships adjacent Sittwe – Ponnagyun and Pauktaw – and blocked all roads to it. The only access junta troops and officials have to Sittwe is by sea and air.

The Arakan Army launched a coordinated offensive against junta targets and strongholds in Rakhine State and neighboring Paletwa township in southern Chin State in November last year. It has seized nine towns and about 180 junta military bases, including command centers, since then.

The ethnic army now controls six of Rakhine State’s 17 townships as well as two more towns in townships it does not yet completely control in the westernmost state.

The AA is now intensifying its attacks on three military battalion headquarters in Rathedaung Township. The junta is responding with heavy bombardments from air, sea and land.

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