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I understand well the attitude of Rakhine people towards AA and its attitude towards the people: Political analyst Dr Hla Kyaw Zaw

I understand well the attitude of Rakhine people towards AA and its attitude towards the people: Political analyst Dr Hla Kyaw Zaw

Narinjara News (Interview), 17 January 2024

The recent Rakhine conflicts, began on 13 November 2023, have seen the Arakan Army (AA) securing control over many Rakhine areas, including the Paletwa region (of Chin State). Currently, the junta forces are facing regular defeats, resulting in significant losses. Amid this complex scenario, a cease-fire agreement was brokered under the Chinese pressure. In the midst of these military, political, and diplomatic intricacies, what direction might the military situation in Rakhine take? Narinjara News reporter interviewed political analyst Dr Hla Kyaw Zaw, known for her deep understanding on Myanmar affairs. The excerpts remain-

Q - China's pressure led to a temporary ceasefire in northern Shan State. How do you think this will affect the military situation in Rakhine State?
A - The ceasefire discussions in China between the military junta and the Three Brotherhood Alliance representatives exclusively concerned the northern region and do not necessarily extended to Rakhine State. No commitments have been made by any party regarding Rakhine, including the AA. While the Three Brotherhood Alliance has indeed made promises, these commitments specifically apply to the northern Shan State. It is anticipated that Rakhine will face no issues and remain free to any activities.

Q - AA is taking control of the junta's tactical operation command base and military bases in Rakhine, one by one. Additionally, divisional commanders in northern Shan State are being arrested and
many are surrendering. What's your take on the junta's military situation in light of these events?

A - In my view, the junta forces are falling apart, with a notable impact on their  morale. The internet videos indicate that, following the capture of hill-based camps in northern Shan State, they had a
significant amount of weapons and ammunition. However, despite having these weapons, the surrender of 6 brigadier generals indicates that their army personnel  are likely in a difficult situation. Given the
current pace, it would be beneficial if northern Shan State could persist in its efforts, completing what is necessary to transform into a liberated region.

Q - The Three Brotherhood Alliance has captured nearly 30 towns, including Rakhine, along with several military camps. Could the military junta potentially strike these locations again? Also, what
preparations might be necessary for the ethnic revolutionary forces to maintain control over these captured towns in the long run?

A - Yes. Previously, during revolutions, we often captured towns but couldn't maintain control for a long time. At that time, it was only the Burma Communist Party (BCP). Now, with the union of various ethnic groups and the Bamar people from the mainland, I think we have a better chance of capturing and keeping towns under control. It's more than just the Arakan Army (AA) now. The Northern Alliance offers protection and we can receive supplies from allies. This means once we capture a place, we are more equipped to manage it. The AA has valuable experience in areas like Wa, KIA's Laiza, and Mongla, and understands how to govern locally. With the junta forces not as powerful as they used to be, the AA and other ethnic groups are likely capable of maintaining control over the towns successfully.

Q - There are different opinions on whether Rakhine might secede, especially within the Bamar community. What is your thought over the matter?
A - To my knowledge, the AA is seeking a confederation, not secession. Also, observing the Three Brotherhood Alliance's actions, it seems the AA realizes that liberation cannot be achieved alone. The Three Brotherhood Alliance has committed to liberate the entire country, vowing to stand with the people until they are free from the military dictatorship. I believe they are unlikely to break this commitment.

Q - The people in Rakhine strongly support the AA. What is your perspective on the substantial public support for a revolutionary armed group? Additionally, how do you view the robust support from the
people of Rakhine?

A - I've witnessed that the AA receives significant support from the Rakhine people. When I visited places like Ruili and Zhang Feng, I saw that people from Rakhine State, even young ones, worked really hard. They would save a little money for themselves and donate most of it to the AA. That's why I understand the AA well. The AA leaders also recognize the Rakhine people's generosity. Rakhine State is rich in natural resources, but it's still very poor, which must be tough for the locals. Some Rakhine people might have even moved to the border. Those working at the border have hard lives, taking jobs that the Chinese don't want. They work hard and give their earnings to support the AA. I've seen this myself. So, I understand well the attitudes of both the Rakhine people towards the AA and its attitude towards the people. You really need to love your country and people to understand this.

Q - Could you share your last review of the military situation in Rakhine?
A - The conflict is expected to extend throughout Myanmar. The military junta's only method is to brutally kill the people. They will persist in firing artillery shells and conducting airstrikes. Our people must navigate through a very difficult period in their struggle for their own revolution. It's unavoidable. Therefore, there will be considerable sacrifices, and the war is anticipated to expand further. (END)

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