Nine policemen have been killed in a militant attack in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, as tensions ratchet up in a state driven by ethnic and religious conflict, channelnewsasia.com reported.
A military crackdown in 2017 forced some 740,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh in violence UN investigators have said warrants the prosecution of top generals for genocide and crimes against humanity.
But the armed forces are now waging a war against a militant group claiming to represent the state’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, a population that also stands accused of aiding soldiers in their expulsion of the Rohingya.
The Arakan Army (AA) has in recent months mounted several attacks on security forces and officials in its struggle for more autonomy and rights for Rakhine people.
The latest attack occurred late Saturday took place in Yoetayoke village, just an hour north of Rakhine state’s capital Sittwe.
According to reports, nine police were killed, one was injured and another one is missing. A leaked police report said weapons were also taken from the police station.
No group has yet claimed responsibility and the AA could not immediately be reached for comment. A local administrator confirmed investigations are underway.
Northern Rakhine state is inaccessible outside of carefully government-chaperoned trips and information is difficult to verify independently.
But swathes of the state’s north are once again engulfed in conflict. The military has brought in thousands of reinforcements and is bombarding AA positions with heavy artillery.
Several thousand people have been forced from their homes by the violence.
Yet there is widespread support for the AA’s cause across much of Rakhine, one of the poorest states in the country, where many feel they have suffered decades of discrimination by the state.
Some 100 local administrators submitted their resignation en masse this month calling for the release of four colleagues reportedly arrested for having links with the AA.
The verdict in a treason trial against a popular Rakhine politician is also expected in the coming days and could prove to be a further flashpoint.
Aye Maung stands accused of treason after allegedly inciting Rakhine people in a speech last year to take arms and rise up against the country’s ethnic-Bamar (Burmese) majority.