Myanmar rebel group says army fuelling trouble along Kaladan route

Hindustan Times, Guwahati | BySadiq Naqvi
Apr 07, 2019 10:45 PM IST

The Arakan Army is fighting for a confederate status for Rakhine state says it has no problem Kaladan Multi Modal Transport Project (KMMTP) that India is building in Myanmar.

Days after reports that the Myanmarese rebel group Arakan Army (AA) has been targeting men and material involved in the Kaladan Multi Modal Transport Project (KMMTP) that India is building, the outfit said it has no problem with New Delhi and accused the Myanmar army of trying to create trouble.

Rakhine Buddhist refugee family in Hmangbuchhua village on the Indo-Myanmar Border in Mizoram(HT File Photo)
Rakhine Buddhist refugee family in Hmangbuchhua village on the Indo-Myanmar Border in Mizoram(HT File Photo)

“We have no problem with the KMMTP. We are not against it. We do not want to obstruct it. They are building a road which the people can use. We can also use that road,” said Khaing Thu Kha, spokesperson of the Arakan Army and head of its information wing, over the phone.

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On completion, the KMMTP will help connect Mizoram with the Sittwe Port in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

The Arakan Army is fighting for a confederate status for Rakhine state. On March 30, in southern Chin state, AA insurgents abducted 13 people working for a Myanmar-based contractor involved in building the Paletwa to Mizoram road, part of the last leg of the KMMTP.

Five persons were later released. This 109-km road connecting Paletwa to Zorinpui on the Indo-Myanmar border in Mizoram is key to completion of the project.

On the Indian side, in Lawngtlai, in south Mizoram, officials said they have completed over 80% work on the 87-km road connecting Lawngtlai town to Zorinpui.

“We have eight persons in detention. They are spies sent by the Myanmar Army. They were working for Military Intelligence before,” claimed Khaing Thu Kha. “The Myanmar Army is taking advantage of the Kaladan project and sending spies in the war zone. They want to create problems between the Indian army and the AA,” he said.

“My advice to the companies sending workers on the project is that for their security they should inform us that they are entering the war zone so that we can inform our ground forces,” Khaing Thu Kha said.

On March 16, a vessel carrying steel tresses for a bridge in Paletwa was targeted and set on fire by AA rebels. “We had information that the Myanmar Army was transporting ammunition in that vessel,” Khaing Thu Kha claimed.

Officials of the Myanmar Army, quoted in a report by Irrawaddy, rubbished claims by the AA and said the outfit was trying to hamper the construction of the road.

Since January 2018, clashes between the AA and Myanmar Army have intensified in the Rakhine and Chin states of Myanmar.

Presidential spokesperson in Myanmar told the media recently that there have been 103 clashes between the two sides since January in which as many as 12 civilians, 58 AA combatants and 28 policemen have died. The figure does not include casualties suffered by the Myanmar Army.

In February, there were reports that Indian security forces had undertaken an operation jointly with the Myanmar Army targeting Arakan Army camps.

A senior official of the Assam Rifles in Mizoram said in March that security presence was increased to ensure that there is no movement of refugees from Myanmar to Mizoram. In 2017, as fighting raged in Myanmar, more than 1500 refugees had entered Lawngtlai out of which more than 200 are still living in a border village.

Khaing Thu Kha, meanwhile, denied that the group had any camps in India or if it any of its members were targeted by the Indian security forces. “We have no camps on the India side of the border,” he said.

The spokesperson acknowledged that the members of the group frequented Mizoram for ration or medical treatment. “That, too, has stopped after February since Indian security presence increased,” he said.

“The construction of the road has started, but it will be difficult since it’s a war zone now,” Khaing Thu Kha said commenting on the problems that could arise in completion of the project.

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