By MRATT KYAW THU | FRONTIER
NAY PYI TAW — The Tatmadaw’s information team has warned journalists against using the term ‘civil war’ to refer to Myanmar’s domestic conflicts. At a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday, it insisted that its fight against the Arakan Army in northern Rakhine State is a “war of annihilation against insurgents”.
The fighting, which has displaced at least 4,500 civilians and killed more than 100 people since December, intensified after the AA killed 13 policemen in coordinated raids on police posts in Buthidaung Township on January 4.
The United Nations and humanitarian organisations have formally expressed concern, and Rakhine-based civil society groups have accused the Tatmadaw of restricting aid to some affected communities.
On January 7, members of the National Defence and Security Council met in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss the conflict, indicating rising levels of concern within the government about the threat posed by the AA, whose goal is autonomy for the Rakhine.
Major General Tun Tun Nyi of the True News Information Team said on Friday that President Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had ordered a “crackdown” against the armed group.
“State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi clearly gave an order at the January 7 meeting [of National Defence and Security Council members] to crack down on rebels that threatened national security,” he said.
Despite this, he said, the Tatmadaw is waiting for the AA to cease hostilities.
“The fighting between the AA and the Tatmadaw is not a civil war,” Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun from the Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team told reporters. “The civil war ended on May 1949 after the Insein clashes.”
During the battle of Insein, Karen troops were defeated when they attempted to take Rangoon, which was then the capital of newly independent Burma.
Friday’s briefing on the recent fighting in Rakhine took place at the Defence Services Museum in Nay Pyi Taw, an imposing tribute to the Tatmadaw’s victories, including against ethnic armed organisations.
The AA is a member of the Northern Alliance, a coalition that includes the Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army, which has launched attacks in recent years on police posts and other targets in northern Shan State.
In December, the Tatmadaw declared a four-month ceasefire in Kachin and northern Shan States, but not in Rakhine.