Myanmar ethnic alliance fighters attack border outposts as civilians flee

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Arakan Army says it seizes military posts in two locations in Rakhine state in western Myanmar as residents in Chin state flee fighting to India.

Published On 13 Nov 2023

An ethnic armed group has carried out attacks on border guard outposts in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and fighting has erupted in Chin state, sending thousands of residents fleeing to neighbouring India.

Myanmar’s military rulers are facing their biggest test since taking power in a 2021 coup due to an alliance of ethnic minority armed groups that started an offensive in late October. The Three Brotherhood Alliance has seized more than 80 military bases and seized large caches of military weapons and ammunition.

One of the allied groups, the Arakan Army, which is fighting for greater autonomy in Rakhine State, seized posts in the Rathedaung and Minbya areas, about 200km (124 miles) apart, AA spokesman Khine Thu Kha said on Monday.

“We have conquered some posts, and fighting is continuing in some other places,” he told local media.

Gunfire broke out before dawn, followed by hours of artillery bombardment, residents said, with the military seen blocking entrances to the area and reinforcing administrative buildings.

Richard Horsey, senior Myanmar adviser for the Crisis Group think tank, said the military has experience fighting in Rakhine state but could struggle as enemy forces probe for weaknesses in multiple areas.

“If combat persists, it will open a significant new front for the regime, which is already overstretched,” he said.

“It will be hard for the regime to focus their efforts across all fronts.”

Civilians flee

Fighting also broke out in Chin State, which borders India, when fighters attacked two military camps, according to an Indian official and two sources with knowledge of the assault.

About 5,000 people from Myanmar crossed into India’s Mizoram state as a result of the fighting, said James Lalrinchhana, the deputy commissioner of a district on the Myanmar border.

There was no immediate comment from Myanmar’s military rulers on the latest fighting.

The alliance, which also includes the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, is part of a coalition of seven armed ethnic organisations that maintain close ties with China and have bases or territories near the country’s borders.

Myanmar officials have sounded the alarm, saying, “If the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region, the country will be split into various parts.”

Myint Swe, Myanmar’s appointed president, told a national defence and security council meeting this month, “It is necessary to carefully control this issue.”

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