arakan army chinese weapon war – The Eastern Link https://theeasternlink.com Connecting Regions of Asia. Mon, 18 May 2020 08:32:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.2 https://theeasternlink.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/cropped-external-link-symbol-32x32.png arakan army chinese weapon war – The Eastern Link https://theeasternlink.com 32 32 In Search For A Rakhine Solution In Myanmar https://theeasternlink.com/in-search-for-a-rakhine-solution-in-myanmar/ https://theeasternlink.com/in-search-for-a-rakhine-solution-in-myanmar/#respond Mon, 18 May 2020 05:47:51 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=3940

The emergence of the Arakan Army has created the most acute problem for the stalled peace process and Myanmar’s efforts to end decades of conflict. The severe fighting between the AA and Tatmadaw in Rakhine and Chin States since January 2019 has not only caused instability, insecurity and casualties. It has also sucked up all the […]

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The emergence of the Arakan Army has created the most acute problem for the stalled peace process and Myanmar’s efforts to end decades of conflict.

The severe fighting between the AA and Tatmadaw in Rakhine and Chin States since January 2019 has not only caused instability, insecurity and casualties. It has also sucked up all the attention and resources that stakeholders could otherwise have devoted to negotiations and political dialogue.

The conflict involving the AA is complicating this year’s general elections at the national level and hindering voting at the local level. The fighting is also obstructing progress in addressing the Rohingya crisis because repatriating refugees to conflict zones is neither desirable nor feasible.

The basic question

The prevailing question about the AA is this: when will China intervene to stop the AA?

It’s a question with some legitimacy because the AA’s existence has been closely linked to groups with strong ties to China. The AA was created by the Kachin Independence Army at its headquarters at Laiza, on the Myanmar-China border, and its development has been fostered by the KIA and more recently the United Wa State Army. These are the two biggest and strongest ethnic armed organisations based along Myanmar’s border with China. The KIA and UWSA are subject to China’s influence and arguably, to China’s preferences (although to different degrees).

Politically, the AA is a member of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee, a grouping of seven EAOs in northern Myanmar headed by the UWSA. Militarily, the AA is a member of the Northern Alliance, which includes the KIA, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.

The argument that China could stop the AA’s attacks is centred on the basic inference that because the AA is the proxy of China’s proxies (especially the UWSA), China has the unequivocal ability to impose its preference either directly on the AA or indirectly through the UWSA. Even if the AA does not completely rely on the UWSA and KIA for funding, because it has established independent revenue sources such as weapons and drug trafficking, the UWSA is assumed to possess a determining influence over the AA through the supply of arms. The logic is therefore simple: if China wants to shut down the AA’s ability to fight, it could tell the UWSA to stop supplying it with weapons.

The secondary question

An obvious question therefore arises: why has China not stopped the AA and the fighting in Rakhine State?

It’s a reasonable question. The attacks by the AA are not in China’s interest. Aside from China’s general distaste for conflict and instability, the AA’s military operations are creating real problems for China. The AA is fighting across Rakhine State and with its Northern Alliance partners has been involved in offensives in northern Shan State and in Mandalay Region, a strategic corridor through which China accesses the Indian Ocean from its southwestern Yunnan Province.

Other than damaging the investment environment for China’s infrastructure projects in the region, the fighting has disrupted traffic on the main highway linking Mandalay with the border trade town of Muse. The highway is the most important artery for bilateral trade and is the thoroughfare most vulnerable to attack. Last August, after the coordinated attacks by the AA, TNLA and MNDAA on the Defence Services Technological Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin and on police posts and other targets in neighbouring Shan State, the highway was closed for days.

Is the AA stoppable?

After the August attacks, China reportedly articulated its concerns and exerted pressure on the AA, but to no avail. In fact, there is growing evidence that China’s ability to control the AA is limited. One reason is that the UWSA is not entirely subject to pressure from China and can sell the AA weapons made within its territory, which it controls with great autonomy. Another reason is that the UWSA does not have a monopoly on the supply of weapons to the AA. As long as the AA has the financial capacity, it can buy weapons on the black market, including from other countries.

Despite early weaknesses, the AA’s growing capability, battlefield successes and gradual acquisition of territory has made it ineliminable. It is economically strong, with significant financial resources acquired from trafficking and other illegal activities, as well as donations from its supporters inside and outside Myanmar. The economic and political appeal of the AA has enabled it to recruit increasing numbers of troops. It is no longer a small, weak ethnic armed group struggling for survival.

One of the most important factors in the rise of the AA has been its steadily increasing popularity among the Rakhine people, who are the fundamental source of its legitimacy, strength and sustainability. The Rakhine people are disappointed by what they regard as the denial of their political rights and are disillusioned by the democratic process.

Although the Arakan National Party won 22 of the 35 elected seats in the 47-member Rakhine Hluttaw in the general election in November 2015, the Bamar-dominated National League for Democracy exercised its right under the constitution to appoint one of its own as chief minister, despite winning only nine state hluttaw seats.

There is also bitterness among the Rakhine over the sentencing in March last year of former ANP leader Dr Aye Maung to 20 years’ imprisonment for high treason over a speech in which he reportedly accused the NLD of treating the Rakhine people like “slaves”.  The long prison term eliminated any hope of a negotiated solution to ethnic reconciliation in Rakhine.

This political disaffection has increased support for the AA, which at the same time was emerging as a more powerful force. The people’s support for the AA has fundamentally changed the game. The AA no longer lives off the patronage of larger groups. Instead, it is gaining legitimacy as the representative of the Rakhine people, who comprise the majority of  the state’s population – a much higher percentage than the number of Kachin in Kachin State. The support of the people who comprise most of the state’s population is the most important reason for the sustainability and tenacity of the AA.

The popular support has significantly influenced China’s attitude towards the AA. As the creator and promoter of “people’s war”, the Communist Party of China is deeply sensitive to the power and importance of popular support. The AA’s growing constituency and support in Rakhine dictates that China will not antagonise it at the risk of alienating the majority population of a state in which it has important economic interests, even if that means China has to bear the costs of the AA’s attacks in the short term.

The fundamental question

Despite their desire and rationale to deny the AA legitimacy and recognition, the Myanmar government and the Tatmadaw will have to grapple with the reality that the group’s political legitimacy and military tenacity have grown beyond their control.

If a decisive military victory is not attainable, the only other option is a political solution involving dialogue and negotiations. Whether that happens after a prolonged war of attrition is Myanmar’s choice. But holding China responsible for the situation in Rakhine is unlikely to bring about a solution, because the AA’s ability to wage war does not depend on China.

A resolution to the conflict will eventually need a Myanmar solution.

(Courtesy : Frontier Myanmar)

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Top Northeastern Rebel Leaders Flee Into China https://theeasternlink.com/top-northeastern-rebel-leaders-flee-into-china/ https://theeasternlink.com/top-northeastern-rebel-leaders-flee-into-china/#comments Sun, 17 May 2020 06:54:47 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=3886

U Ba Tin, Yangon, & Satyen Borthakur, Guwahati for Easternlink Top leaders of Northeast Indian rebel groups have fled into China after a Burmese military crackdown on their bases in Sagaing province last summer. ULFA commander in chief Paresh Barua is based at the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture which is located in western Yunnan province of  China. It is  one […]

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U Ba Tin, Yangon, & Satyen Borthakur, Guwahati for Easternlink

Top leaders of Northeast Indian rebel groups have fled into China after a Burmese military crackdown on their bases in Sagaing province last summer.

ULFA commander in chief Paresh Barua is based at the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture which is located in western Yunnan province of  China. It is  one of the eight autonomous prefectures of the province, bordering Baoshan to the east and Burma’s Kachin State to the west.

“Barua brazenly makes calls to journalists and politicians in Assam from at least 16 Chinese numbers. Earlier he would do that from Satphones whose location could not be traced. But now we can trace this to an area, where strangely we find 2-3 persons regularly reading Assamese websites like ‘NENOW Assamese’ and ‘Asomiya Protidin’. Do you expect Chinese to read NENOW English or NENOW Assamese ? Only Barua and his people would read Assamese websites in Dehong ,” said a senior external intelligence official on condition of anonymity.

The official was recently in Yangon and Guwahati to facilitate the repatriation of the 22 Northeastern militants that Myanmar handed over on Friday to India.

He said calls from several PLA and UNLF leaders were also traced from Dehong  as were calls from NSCN-Muivah leaders Phungtin Shimran and Anthony Shimray alias Nikkhang made to Manipur and Nagaland.

Shimran and Shimray reportedly escaped the Indian intelligence radar in September last year with some armed cadres after the Naga peace process ran into rough weather with interlocutor R N Ravi setting deadlines for Muivah to accept the final settlement  by dropping demands for a Naga flag and a separate constitution for Nagaland. 

“These two NSCN leaders are both on the China-Myanmar border,” a top leader of the Aung faction of NSCN-K was quoted as saying in Hkamti recently.

 “Whenever China is politically upset with us, there will be clashes on the border as happened on May 5 and 9, there will be harbouring of Northeastern militants as we hear now and there will a rise in China- supported Pakistan rhetoric . China may have a few reasons to be upset now and we can see the fallout,” said retired Lt-Gen John Mukherjee, a former chief of staff of India’s Eastern Army and know vice-president of Calcutta-based thinktank CENERS-K.

Barua suffered a motorcycle accident last year and was treated in a number of Chinese hospitals including the Southern Medical University Hospital run by PLA in Guangzhou , where some medical students from Assam familiar with his picture could spot him in the Trauma Unit. But they did not try speak to him for fear of ‘getting into trouble.’

Two of these students who have already passed out and have got the degrees just before the virus lockdown were among the many Indian students flown out of China and are now working with hospitals in Assam. Both spoke to Easternlink on condition of anonymity and insisted they have seen Barua in the Trauma Unit of the Southern Medical University Hospital , where Chinese surgeons operated on him.

So though the handover of the 22 insurgents from Northastern by Myanmar ,  a first time gesture largely credited to NSA Ajit Doval and Deputy NSA Rajinder Khanna’s parleys with the Burmese authorities , is a boost in India-Myanmar counter-insurgency operations, it is yet to bag a real big fish in the net.

Analysts say this handover is actually a desperate attempt by the Tatmadaw to seek maximum Indian army cooperation in the fight against the 7000-strong Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine-Chin states.

The insurgents were handed over to the Indian government on Friday afternoon,  the first time that Myanmar has acted on India’s request to hand over leaders of the northeast insurgent groups.

The insurgents, wanted in Manipur and Assam, are being brought back by a special plane. 

The plane flying out of Mandalay on Friday will first make a stopover in Manipur capital Imphal, before heading to Assam’s Guwahati. “The insurgents would be handed over to the local police in the two states,” an Indian diplomat in Myanmar told Easternlink.

Among those deported by Myanmar are some long-wanted Indian insurgent leaders such as NDFB (S) self-styled home secretary Rajen Daimary, Capt Sanatomba Ningthoujam of UNLF and Lt Pashuram Laishram of PREPAK (Pro).

Twelve of the 22 are linked to four insurgent groups in Manipur: UNLF, PREPAK (Pro), KYKL and PLA. The remaining 10 are linked to Assam groups such as NDFB (S) and KLO.

The return of the insurgents is being seen as a result of increasing intelligence and defence cooperation between the two countries from both sides over the last few years.

In 2019, the Myanmar army carried out sustained operations in February and March on the basis of intelligence provided by Indian intelligence. 

They also looked the other way when Indian intelligence managed to bring back Khango Konyak, former NSCN-Khaplang group chairman after he had broken off from the main group. 

Konyak’s group is now part of the Naga peace process along with other NSCN factions, though the main negotiations is done only with the NSCN-Muivah faction.

The 22 insurgents were caught by the Myanmar army in Sagaing Region in these operations.

The Indian army reciprocated by attacking and demolishing Arakan Army (AA) bases in South Mizoram , after which the Arakan Army has been kidnapping  Indian contractors, workers and engineers involved with the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport project.

Indian intelligence says that these 22 do not include any of the top guns of Northeastern insurgency. 

“These leaders were middle rung who were running camps in Sagaing province when the Burmese army attacked and captured them. They were tried in a Sagaing court and their deportation request was processed,” said one Intelligence Bureau official in northeast India.

He said the big leaders like ULFA’s commander in chief Paresh Barua or PLA’s chairman Bharat Chaoren or military wing chief Praveen Sharma stay on the Myanmar -China border around Tengchong, Ruili and adjoining areas.

“The Burmese troops or secret police have made no effort to capture them, maybe because they don’t have much control over the northern states like Kachin and Shan. So though the Burmese operation last year has affected the Sagaing based infrastructure of the Northeastern rebel groups, their leaders have evaded the dragnet,” the IB official said. 

Even some NSCN-Muivah faction leaders are believed to be in Ruili-Dihong-Tengchong axis in touch with the Chinese, though the level of contact is not yet known.

The Burmese have long operated against the Northeastern rebel groups but the intensity of their operations varied.

In the 1960-70s, when the Naga and Mizo groups used the Sagaing-Kachin corridor to reach China for training and weapons, they were often intercepted by the Burmese army , something very documented through interviews with rebel leaders by the late Kaka Iralu in seminal work ‘ Naga Saga’. At that time, the Burmese were upset with China for their support of the Burmese Communist insurgency.

But after India supported the Burmese pro-democracy movement in the 1980s, the Burmese military stopped operations against Northeastern rebels , which compelled Indian intelligence to reach out to Kachin, Arakanese and Chin rebels .

In 2001, the Burmese military arrested 192 northeast  Indian rebel leaders including UNLF chief Rajkumar Meghen alias Sanayaima but they were all let off despite Indian requests .

Later the Vajpayee government reached out to the Burmese military on the army’s advice and India stopped helping the Kachins, Arakanese and Chin rebels.

That process has been continued by the Modi government with army-to-army relations improving dramatically amid fears that India may get dragged into a conflict in Rakhine-Chin because the Burmese army appears unable to handle the Arakan Army which might have already reached some tactical through not political understanding with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

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India’s Rakhine Muddle Requires Cautious handling https://theeasternlink.com/indias-rakhine-muddle-requires-cautious-handling/ https://theeasternlink.com/indias-rakhine-muddle-requires-cautious-handling/#respond Fri, 15 May 2020 07:05:01 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=3789

Only once in India’s recent history has it got dragged into a conflict as a sequel to its backing of an ethnic minority struggle in a neighbouring country. Having backed the Tamil separatist movement with moral and material support for four years, the sudden change of Delhi’s Sri Lanka policy led to Rajiv Gandhi’s disastrous […]

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Only once in India’s recent history has it got dragged into a conflict as a sequel to its backing of an ethnic minority struggle in a neighbouring country. Having backed the Tamil separatist movement with moral and material support for four years, the sudden change of Delhi’s Sri Lanka policy led to Rajiv Gandhi’s disastrous military adventure.

The Indian Peace Keeping Force or IPFK took huge casualties trying to tame a Tiger created by its own intelligence services at the behest of Rajiv’s mother Indira Gandhi.

Mrs Gandhi had brought Sikkim into India and backed the Shanti Bahini rebels of the Chakma-Marma-Tripuri tribes in Bangladesh’s strategic Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in what was seen as a punitive move against Bangladesh’s military rulers responsible for the assassination of India’s great friend Mujibur Rahman in 1975.

After twenty years of backing the Shanti Bahini, India got a deal going between them and the Sheikh Hasina government in 1997 that brought the curtain on 20 years of insurgency. CHT is in ferment again. The Bangladesh army keeps pushing Muslim re-settlers into the Buddhist-Hindu tribal region in a bid to change its demography. But by brokering a deal between Dhaka and the Shanti Bahini leadership, India managed to extricate itself from CHT.

Indian intelligence backed the MQM in Sindh and the Baloch rebels in Balochistan in a tit-for-tat for Pakistan’s backing of Kashmiri and Khalistan Sikh insurgents. It also backed for a while the Kachin, Chin and Arakanese rebels in Myanmar during the 1990s to counteract the Northeastern rebel presence in these borderlands where the Burmese army had no control.

Two of RAW’s legendary operators, B Raman and B B Nandi, have provided accounts of how the Indian covert offensive in Sindh and Balochistan forced Pakistan to scale down its backing to insurgents in Punjab and Kashmir in the late 1980s.  Nandi admitted to me the deal with the Burmese rebels lasted for a decade and helped India neutralise Northeastern rebel bases in the border region, where Burmese military had little presence (Subir Bhaumik; Troubled Periphery: Crisis of India’s Northeast).

Tatmadaw’s Jayawardene Trick

Just like the shrewd Jayawardene trapped India into the Jaffna conflict by getting Rajiv Gandhi to guarantee the implementation of the SriLanka peace accord in 1987, the Burmese military dominated administration of Myanmar is using India’s Kaladan Multimodal project in Rakhine and Chin state to get Delhi involved in its own offensive against the Arakan Army.

The $484 million Kaladan project that envisages a sea-to-river-to road corridor from Rakhine’s Sittwe port has been implemented at a snail’s pace. The Chinese have finished the Kyaukphyu deep seaport in Rakhine and are going ahead with a special economic zone around it with rail-road and oil-gas pipelines linking it to Yunnan.

India has renovated the Sittwe port and is seeking to use it to connect to Mizoram through the Kaladan river. But the road from Paletwa in Chin state to Zorinpuii on the Mizoram border is unfinished and the Arakan Army’s recent depredations on this stretch has delayed the project still further.

The Indian army conducted ‘Operation Sunrise’ against Arakan Army bases in southern Mizoram last summer on request of the Burmese army Tatmadaw. The rebels began targeting the Indian contractors in the Kaladan project and Arakan Army spokesperson Khaine Thukkha told media persons that  China “recognised” them but India did not.

Divisions in Delhi on Rakhine Handling

The Indian Army and the intelligence services are divided over how to handle the Arakan Army which is apparently jeopardising the Kaladan project. Some want tough action including coordinated operations with Tatmadaw against the rebels but others suggest a more realistic approach of equidistance.

Still others feel India should get Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga, known to be close to the Arakan Army (AA) and also Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to take the lead to mediate an end to the escalating conflict that’s unsettling the borderlands of South and South-east Asia.

Especially those seeking to return to the mainstream seek his advice on negotiations. Zoramthanga, who has played some initial role in the Burmese peace process, would thrive in such a role. He told this writer recently he had negotiated the release of an MP of Suu Kyi’s NLD party after 79 days in AA captivity.

He also said India should change the contractor on the Kaladan project who seems to have used his influence in Delhi to push for military action that is obviously proving to be counter-productive.

The 7000-strong Arakan Army is a new-age rebel group, adept at riverine and land guerrilla warfare, use of the internet and social media for psy-war (psychological warfare) purposes and avoids big encampments and bases that could be targeted from the air or by a huge conventional assault.

Like boxer Muhammed Ali, their strategy is – ‘float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’.  The Arakan Army was recently in news for having carried into its Rakhine-Chin battle zone a huge quantity of weapons after landing them on the extreme southern Bangladesh coast and then carrying it through the rugged terrain of Chittagong Hill Tracts and Mizoram’s Parva hills.

The Rakhine-Chin muddle is becoming a regional crisis, with Burmese-Rakhine and Burmese-Rohingya (also Buddhist-Muslim ) fault lines appearing sharply on a chessboard where China and India, with their connectivity projects ( Kaladan and Kyaukphyu-Yunnan oil-gas pipeline ), have huge stakes.

India has to play its cards very carefully if it has to avoid a bloody nose a la Jaffna 1987.

Courtesy – TheQuint

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Arakan Army And Myanmar’s Ethnic Strife : Pointers for future https://theeasternlink.com/arakan-army-and-myanmars-ethnic-strife-pointers-for-future/ https://theeasternlink.com/arakan-army-and-myanmars-ethnic-strife-pointers-for-future/#comments Fri, 01 May 2020 07:52:19 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=3207

On 10 April 2009, the separatist Arakan Army (AA) established itself as a “revolutionary armed organisation” in Myanmar. Till 2015, it operated in Kachin and Shan States under the guidance of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) with headquarters in Laiza. Politically, it is a member of the Federal Political Negotiations and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), a group of […]

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On 10 April 2009, the separatist Arakan Army (AA) established itself as a “revolutionary armed organisation” in Myanmar. Till 2015, it operated in Kachin and Shan States under the guidance of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) with headquarters in Laiza. Politically, it is a member of the Federal Political Negotiations and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), a group of seven Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAO) in Northeast Myanmar. Militarily, AA is a member of the Northern Alliance as well as the Three Brotherhood Alliance.1 This article highlights the growth of AA over the past decade.

On 10 April 2020, the AA celebrated its 11th Anniversary and marked a new chapter in Myanmar’s conflict process, especially since the Myanmar Government declared AA and its political arm, the United League of Arakan (ULA), as “Unlawful Association” on 23 March 2020. The 11th Anniversary Day speech by self-designated Commander in Chief (C-in-C), Major General Twan Mrat Naing reiterated the motivations and aspirations of the AA and the Arakanese people to continue their struggle towards the liberation and adopt the “Way of Rakhita”.2 The “Way of Rakhita” is an attempt to rekindle memories of the once-powerful Arakan Kingdom, which was defeated by the Bamar Konbaung dynasty in 1784, and motivate the Arakan people and the AA soldiers.3 In his speech the Twan Mrat Naing said, “We are not only engaged in the ground battles but contesting each battlefront such as informational intelligence field, the frontline of psychological warfare, organising operations, legitimacy, and international law, and the diplomatic field from which our struggle can receive international support and good perception.”4

To address these challenges, he laid down three broad agendas. First, to strengthen the AA and to undertake the tasks of the revolution that has been construed as “struggling by organising; organising by struggling, training by fighting; fighting by training.” The second agenda was to challenge the Burmese racism and colonialism. The C-in-C, called out for the launch of a national revolution to ensure the development of Arakan for future generations. As the third agenda, the C-in-C emphasised on establishing public relations as one of the essential tasks in this long struggle. Hecommanded the revolutionary fighters of the AA to treat people with full respect, abiding by the rules and regulations of the Army. He appreciated people’s support and said, “One of the main reasons why the Arakan Army can firmly stand up and resist full-force offensive attacks of the enemy is because the entire population of Arakan supports us. People are the main roots of the revolution”. He asserted that the legitimacy given by the people of Arakan provides political recognition to the AA even when the government designated it as an unlawful organisation and therefore, cooperation with the people is kept as one of the key agendas for the AA.

According to the statement on AA’s official website, “The main objective of the Arakan Army (AA) is to defend the Fatherland of Arakan and to protect all peoples of Arakan. The presence of the Arakan Army in Arakan is to give peace, stability, security, freedom, justice and development to all peoples of Arakan irrespective of sex, race, religion and political belief.”5 The objective justifies its efforts to work towards self-determination, equality, and justice for the Arakan people, who have faced discrimination and alienation for centuries, as elaborated in the next section.

Background: Centuries of Alienation

The “Greater Arakan” has been documented to be 50 per cent larger than the area today, with the territories of Arakan Hill Tract in the present day Chin State and much more included in it. The kingdom reached its zenith with the rise of the capital at Mrauk-U during the 15th and 17th centuries CE. However, the feeling of humiliation started in the 18th century when the Konbaung King Bodawpaya overthrew the last Arakan King Thamada. The Konbaung ruler led a violent invasion leading to massive loss of lives and humiliation to the Arakanese people for a period from 1784 to 1824. Subsequently,the kingdom was invaded by the British (1824-1941), the Japanese (1942-45), then British again (1945-48). From 1948 to the present day, Rakhine has been under successive post-independence Governments. Since then, various armed opposition groups have been active in the Rakhine territory. 6

The AA aims to revive the lost glory of the Arakan soldiers and its people, who have felt socially, politically as well as economically alienated in the hands of the Bamar people. The Rakhine State is financially weak, marred by the slow growth rate of around five (05) per cent in the period 2005 to 2013, against the State average rate of about eight (8) percent in the same period. The per capita State Gross Domestic Product (GDP)revealed that Rakhine, along with Chin are the most impoverished States with per capita incomes of $171 and $31, respectively.7 This has been reiterated by the ‘Poverty Report – Myanmar Living Conditions Survey’ (2017), which states that poverty is most prevalent in Chin and Rakhine States. In Chin State, at an average, six out of ten people are poor, while in Rakhine State, four out of ten people are poor.8 It has been recorded that the Rakhine State (along with Chin State) have been left out of the convergence process of growth and development reported in other States. 9

The current crisis stems from the 2015 elections when the National League for Democracy (NLD) Government came to power. There was hope and anticipation amongst the Rakhine people that the Aung San SuuKyi led government would facilitate political reconciliation and recognition of the socio-political indentities of the Rakhine people. However, that was not to be and there was not much social or political engagement in the Rakhine State. Moreover, the disgruntlement with the Bamar dominated NLD ignited again after the NLD Government appointed its own Chief Minister despite winning just nine seats, as against the local Arakan National Party (ANP), which won 22 out of 35 seats in the 47 member Rakhine Hluttaw (Out of 47, 12 seats are reserved for the military representatives). 10 The arrest of the former ANP leader, Dr. Aye Maung, and his sentencing to 20 years imprisonment for treason in March 2019 has been one of the reasons for increasing tensions.11 In this background, where there was a lack of political agency to voice their concerns, the AA chief Twan MratNaing stated that the political objective of AA is to obtain confederate status for the Rakhine State, on the lines of Wa State.12

Challenges Faced by the Arakan Army

The first instance of AA’s involvement in the attacks on Tatmadaw took place on 29 March 2015 at Kyauktaw in Rakhine State and simultaneously at Paletwa in Chin State. In this attack, a Captain and two soldiers of Tatmadaw were killed, and the AA took four Tatmadaw soldiers as prisoners.13 The Government has refused to recognise the AA in the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) as an Ethnic Armed Organisation (EAO), and since then there have been numerous attacks from both sides as well as heavy casualities.

The simultaneous attack by AA on 4 January 2019 at four border police outposts in North Buthidaung Township, Rakhine State, marked an escalation of the conflict. Following this attack, Myanmar Government directed the military to carry out counter-insurgency (CI) operations on 7 January 2019, and since then, the clashes have intensified. 14 The Tatmadaw has deployed a large force and uses air and artillery strikes against the AA. The patterns depict the use of its ageold “Four Cuts” doctrine to break the AA capabilities.15 General Ne Win, leader of 1962 military coup, inspired by Japan’s “three all” (“kill all, burn all, destroy all) tactics, engineered the “FourCuts” doctrine. The doctrine was designed to block the insurgents’ access to key inputs: funding, food, intelligence, and recruits. For the first time, the Tatmadaw used the strategy against the Karen rebellion in the 1970s and then more recently against the KIA.16

The issue, however, with such attacks is that it does not distinguish between civilians and the targeted group. Use of such strong arm tactics is widespread in the Rakhine State as has been documented by the Human Rights Council (HRC) Mission. According to HRC Mission report, the Tatmadaw used massive force resulting in loss of civilian lives as well as damage to civilian property such as schools and monuments of cultural heritage.17 These attacks by the Tatmadaw have indirectly helped AA gather local support for its cause due to severe damage done to the civilians.

The aggressive response by the Myanmar Government has raised the issues about human rights violations, which are being expressed through various International Organisations such as HRC Mission, Amnesty International, as well as mainstream media and social media. Since February 2020, there have been internet shutdowns in Rakhine and Chin States. The UN Human Rights experts have also raised concerns over Myanmar Government’s move impacting the right to freedom of expression, information, participation, and also including the right to health, food, shelter, and education. They have also reported the Tatmadaw’s fighting and possible use of heavy weapons near ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya villages, as reported by credible reports.18

The wrongful acts of the AA against the Tatmadaw, the Chin State, and other civilians, have also been reported. There are practices of forced labour being reported, theft of civilian property,and some more grave war crimes.19 The C-in-C of AA, in his speech on 10 April 2020, also raised concerns about the reports of disciplinary violations and misuse of the power by individuals in reputed positions for personal gains. The C-in-C warned his cadre against such practices in the future.

The President, while declaring the AA and ULA “Unlawful Associations”, emphasised that the goals of the armed group pose risks and disrupt the rule of law and stability to the nation, including, peace of its citizens. Concurrently the Central Committee for Counter-Terrorism (CCCT) accused the AA of torture and killing village officials, civil servants, and innocent civilians and declared the outfit as a terrorist organisation.20

Concerns have also been raised as the country grapples with increasing COVID-19 cases, and the Tatmadaw is intensifying its military operations after shutting down communication channels, including media, mobile internet, transportation of medicines and food in the Arakan region. Despite the call for a nationwide ceasefire from major ethnic armed organisations, the Tatmadaw refused to agree for a ceasefire and called the proposal “unrealistic”.21 The Tatmadaw attacks during these times is being criticised, both on local and international platforms, for misusing the authority as well as resources available.

Broadening of its Presence and Operations

In its operations, the AA uses both conventional and non-conventional tools. The AA has obtained modern arms and ammunition from KIA and from the United Wa State Army; these are both locally-made and of Chinese origin. There are also reports which suggest that they acquire their weapons from the black market, for instance, US-made M 60 machine and Barrett MRAD sniper rifles which were shown in the video commemorating the ninth anniversary of the AA’s formation in April 2018.22 A recent report suggests that a consignment of 500 assault rifles, 30 Universal Machine Guns, 70,000 rounds of ammunition, and a large stock of grenades was transported through Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts to Paletwa. The consignment landed in Monakhali beach near Whaikyang on 21 February 2020 and reached the AA camp at Sandak (Mro) near Thanchi in Bangladesh on 2 March 2020. Thereafter, apparently the consignment reached Paletwa via Parva in India. Such huge consignments suggest that the AA is broadening its operations. 23

In addition to this, the AA has taken advantage of the riverine terrain of the Kaladaan and Mayu rivers to attack and hijack transport and passenger vessels. Such tactics reveal their competence in the riverine warfare, which effectively aims to interdict the movement of vessels in the region to jeopardise local inland water transportation.24

They strategically aimed to disturb traffic of water transport vessels carrying infrastructure development loads and by taking hostages from passenger’s vessels. Their actions, such as attacking the Myanmar naval boats near Mayu river bank or abducting the speed boats in which Chin Member of Parliament was travelling on 3 November 2019, highlight their strategy to push the Myanmar Navy out of the area and attain ‘riverine dominance.’25

Despite Tatmadaw’s relatively higher strike capacity and more robust force capability, it has suffered damages since 2018, in the form of ambushes, landmine hits, high-rank fatalities, the capture of troops as Prisoners of War (POWs), seizure of weapons and other military accessories.26 In the latest fighting in March 2020, a Tatmadaw Battalion was overrun and the Commanding Officer and over 30 soldiers apprehended by the AA, causing major embarrassment to the Myanmar Government and the Tatmadaw.

The AA has made efforts to discredit Tatmadaw by creating awareness through various communication channels such as posting on their official websites, social media sites like Twitter and the like. The cultural agenda, which has been one of the critical campaign tools used by the AA to adopt the “Way of Rakhita” and to achieve “Arakan Dream 2020” i.e, self determination by 2020 has helped it achieve support from various sections of the society.27

India’s Role in the Current Crises

Sharing the border length of 1643 km, India has a massive interest in the peace and security of the Myanmar region. Though India does not share a land boundary with the Rakhine State, the current conflict in the Chin State has a land boundary with Mizoram in the West and Manipur in the North. India shares a cordial relationship with the Tatmadaw, and the Tatmadaw has been collaborating with the Indian Army to deny the AA escape routes and safe havens in India. An example of their joint operation was when the Indian Army carried out “reciprocal” operations against AA positions in Mizoram along the border in return for the Tatmadaw’s takeover of Naga rebel camps in the upper Sagaing Division.28

Western Myanmar is strategically vital for India’s security as well as economic interests. The struggle in Paletwa has led to the suspension of construction of the 109 kilometers highway connecting Paletwa in Myanmar to Zorinpuri in Mizoram, India. The highway is part of India’s ambitious Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP), which was conceived in 2008. The highway construction started in 2018 but repeatedly faced disruptions due to constant series of attacks between the AA and the Tatmadaw. To gain from this opportunity, the leader of the separatist AA issued a directive in December 2019 seeking to levy taxation on this highway. In addition to this, downward riverine stretch from Paletwa on the Kaladaan river crosses the area, which is now under increasing domination of the AA.29 It is in India’s interest to ensure peace in the region for the successful implementation of the KMMTTP.

The Indian influencnce in the area to an extent was revealed in the aftermath of 3 November 2019 incident, when the AA abducted passengers travelling in two speedboats on the way from Paletwa in Chin State to Kyauktaw in Rakhine State. These passengers included five Indians and five Myanmar nationals, including the NLD Member of Parliament. The Indian Government intervened immediately and ensured the release of all five Indian nationals (including one Indian who died in AA’s custody due to heart attack) within 24 hours. However, the Member of Parliament (MP) and others were not released by the AA.30 The intervention of the MP was secured after 79 days with the help of Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, who is revered by the AA due to his long association with the Arakan people from the days of the Mizoram insurgency.31 Such efforts bring to light India’s advantage in the potential resolution of the current crises in Myanmar.32 India also needs to guard against the influx of refugees into the North East, which may rise due to the increasing conflict in the Rakhine State.

Therefore, the Indian Government must ensure that there is peace in the neighbouring region, which can be achieved with due consideration of the interests of the Rakhine people. In more than a decade, the AA which views itself as fighting for the rights and freedom of the Rakhine people and preservation of the Rakhine culture and way of life has come a long way. Effort must be made to bring the Myanmar government, the Tatmadaw, and the AA on the same table, where all three must ensure peace as well as address the feeling of social, political, and economic conditions of the Arakan people. One of the keys to a successfull solution of the Arakan people’s concerns is to bring about reforms in the Tatmadaw itself, within its functioning and operations as well as in system of governance. 33

Conclusion

The separatist outfit Arakan Army has developed itself as a well-trained force operating under a well-established command structure. Having a degree of support of local public and some international diaspora, the AA emerged from merely a group of 20 recruits in its foundation year (2009), to a force consisting of 7000 to 10000 at present. From the adoption of modern arms and ammunition in its guerrilla warfare and use of the riverine terrain to its own advantage to advance the techniques in riverine warfare, the AA is giving a tough fight to the Tatmadaw. The Myanmar Government and the Tatmadaw are fighting back commendably, given the terrain and the hostile local population. However, for lasting peace it is crucial for Myanmar Government to come to a modus vivendii with the AA and address the concerns of the Rakhine people. India needs to act as a mediator to resolve the crises escalating in the region for the overall security and peace in the neighbourhood.

Courtesy – Vivekananda International Foundation

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Arakan Army Denies Drug Charge, Silent On Arms Import https://theeasternlink.com/arakan-army-denies-drug-charge-silent-on-arms-import/ https://theeasternlink.com/arakan-army-denies-drug-charge-silent-on-arms-import/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2020 05:14:23 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=3162

The Kachin-based Kaungkha militia and separatist  Arakan Army have denied any links between the two and rubbished Burmese military allegations that they were into drug trafficking worth millions. On April 21, Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Monitor published a report alleging that Myanmar military intelligence has identified the ethnic Kachin Kaungkha militia as the AA’s main strategic partner in […]

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The Kachin-based Kaungkha militia and separatist  Arakan Army have denied any links between the two and rubbished Burmese military allegations that they were into drug trafficking worth millions.

On April 21, Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Monitor published a report alleging that Myanmar military intelligence has identified the ethnic Kachin Kaungkha militia as the AA’s main strategic partner in the lucrative production and trafficking of methamphetamine “yaba” tablets and crystal methamphetamine “ice.”

But the Arakan Army maintained a studied silence on an April 25 Easternlink expose that the group has smuggled in a huge consignment of weapons through Bangladesh coast and the India-Myanmar-Bangladesh border region in Feb-March this year.

https://theeasternlink.com/arakan-army-gets-chinese-weapons-through-bangladesh/

The Jane report said the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) has “identified the narcotics trade centered on northeastern Shan state as the key generator of the tens of millions of dollars required to recruit, train, and equip an insurgent army.”

It alleged that the Myanmar military’s Northeastern Command was probably aware of the militia’s involvement in the drug trade for years and has “almost certainly” profited from it.

A senior leader from the Kaungkha militia denied the accusations and told The Irrawaddy that that the group does not have any connection with the AA.

“There are people who work for illegal drug business in our areas, but our Kaungkha group is not involved in their business,” said the senior militia leader, who asked not to be named.

“It was a political game, intended to place blame on our Kaungkha group, to say that we have a connection with the AA, he said.

The AA also denied the allegations in the report. In a statement released on Wednesday, the AA said it “has no ties to any People’s Militia Force set up and controlled by the Myanmar army” . 

In any case, it would be absurd for the AA to maintain links to a militia group which was clearly patronised by the Burmese military . The Arakan Army was founded and built up by the Kachin Independence Army which is at daggers drawn with the Burmese military.

“These allegations surfacing in the media claiming that the Arakan Army has ties to the Kaungkha militia are damaging, defamatory and false,” the AA statement read.

The Kaungkha militia, also known as the Kachin Defense Army (KDA), split from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in 1991 and has often been  accused of drug production and export from their base area in northern Shan State.

The Kaungkha militia leader told Irrawaddy that some people operating illegal drug businesses have worked in the Kaungkha area but that those people also worked in other areas across the country.

“It was not our business to ask them who they worked with. The government has a duty to investigate it,” the leader said. “[Drug traffickers and producers] may approach people who have influence or power in the areas where they want to operate their business.”

According to the Jane’s report, Shan State’s proximity to China has allowed drug producers to illicitly import precursor chemicals across the border. The report added that the drug trade is also driven by profitable new markets in cities in central Myanmar as well as Rakhine State and Bangladesh.

Myanmar military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun did not comment on links between the AA, the Kaungkha militia and the drug trade, but he said that the military disarmed the militia when they were discovered to be producing illegal drugs.

The military seized almost 2,000 weapons from the Kaungkha militia and detained some leaders from the group on March 24. The leaders were released a week later.

“A lot of illegal drugs were seized in Rakhine after the AA established its base in the area. Most illegal drugs are seized before they are sent to other areas,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy .

The army seized illegal drugs, other materials and equipment valued at 267 billion kyats (US$194 million) during an 11-day crackdown in early March in the area under the control of the Kaungkha militia near Lwekham and Kaungkha villages.

The report alleges that the Myanmar army launched its crackdown against the Kaungkha militia because the threat posed by the drug money-financed AA outweighed whatever income the military was making from the arrangement.

The AA first established itself at the headquarters of the KIA in Laiza in 2009, near the Chinese border. After finishing military training in Laiza, some members of the AA began operating in northern Shan State, where they fought the Myanmar military in an alliance with groups including the KIA, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). According to the Jane’s report, it was through these operations in Shan State that the AA became connected with the Kaungkha militia.

The Jane’s report outlines how the Myanmar military has tried different strategies to cut off the AA’s support, including the “Four Cuts” strategy which targeted the food, funds, intelligence, and recruits of ethnic armed groups.

“It is difficult to gauge how severely and for how long the downfall of the Kaungkha will damage AA financial flows,” said the report.

“Beyond narcotics, the AA has other sources of funding that include cross-border timber smuggling into India and Bangladesh. It is also understood to have developed a system of donations from widely scattered Rakhine diaspora along with ‘taxation’, voluntary or enforced, of businesses in Rakhine and beyond,” read the report.

TNLA Brigadier General Tar Phone Kyaw said that the idea of a financial link between the AA and the Kaungkha militia is a conspiracy theory promoted by the Myanmar army.

“Because there is too much war, too high of causalities and too many deaths in Arakan [Rakhine], the Burmese army links [the AA] to Kaungkha. Of course they try to take down the image of the AA,” he said.

The TNLA and the AA are both members of a coalition known as the Brotherhood Alliance.

“To keep pointing out that the AA has a link with Kaungkha is wrong,” said Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw.

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Arakan Army Gets Chinese Weapons Through BANGLADESH https://theeasternlink.com/arakan-army-gets-chinese-weapons-through-bangladesh/ https://theeasternlink.com/arakan-army-gets-chinese-weapons-through-bangladesh/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2020 12:41:46 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=2721 Arakan army Theeasternlink.com

The separatist Arakan Army(AA) fighting Myanmar troops in an intensified conflict in the coastal province of Rakhine and the neighbouring state of Chin has managed to land and bring in a huge consignment of weapons and ammunition through Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts. The consignment containing 500 assault rifles, 30 Universal Machine Guns, 70000 rounds of […]

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Arakan army Theeasternlink.com

The separatist Arakan Army(AA) fighting Myanmar troops in an intensified conflict in the coastal province of Rakhine and the neighbouring state of Chin has managed to land and bring in a huge consignment of weapons and ammunition through Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The consignment containing 500 assault rifles, 30 Universal Machine Guns, 70000 rounds of ammunition and a huge stock of grenades  was brought in by sea and offloaded at the Monakhali beach not far from the coastal junction of Myanmar and Bangladesh in the third week of February.

As Easternlink investigation spearheaded by this writer with the help of several correspondents in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Hongkong has found conclusive evidence that the consignment had a trouble-free landing at the Monakhali beach near Whaikyang (Wyakuang in Burmese)  on 21 February night. Nearly 150 Rakhine porters drawn from various villages of Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh and accompanied by 50 fighters of Arakan Army carried this consignment on foot and mules through Gundum and Rejupara, Uhalapalonh and Paglirara crisscrossing the very hilly border region.  Skirting the Matamuhuri-Sangua wildlife sanctuary , the column skirted Singpa and reached the Arakan Army camp at Sandak(Mro) near Thanchi on 2 March.   

The nearest Bangladesh army camps hardly sends out patrols in these hilly terrain and the cantonment of Alikadam is far away.

But our correspondents In Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban in Bangladesh say that the army and navy of the country have not conducted any operation against the Arakan Army in recent years and it was not surprising that the AA consignment could be landed without interception .

“It seems the Bangladesh forces in the area look the other way and do not disturb the AA both because it is a strong force and also because it is creating a huge problem for the Myanmarese forces that generals and admirals in Dhaka and Chittagong may not be very unhappy about, ” one mediaperson in Cox’s Bazar said. He was unwilling to be named for fear of harassment by security forces who resent sensitive disclosures.

Myanmar-Bangladesh relations have worsened in recent years over the Burmese pushout of nearly one million Muslim Rohingyas that Bangladesh has been forced to shelter  .

So unlike the Indian army attacking AA bases in southern  Mizoram and even conducting ‘Operation Sunrise’ last year in a bid to get their Kaladan Multimodal project operationalised, Bangladesh can afford to look the other way because it has no stake in Rakhine.

Another top source in Chittagong says that Bangladesh intelligence has received unconfirmed reports that the Burmese military is trying to develop close links with the former rebels of Shanti Bahini in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to use them in the area against the Arakanese and Rohingya rebels.

“Bangladesh intelligence closely follows any possible effort to revive the Shanti Bahini and they realise that in view of strong Delhi-Dhaka relations, only the Burmese could use these Buddhist tribal insurgents in future,” the source said.

After carrying the huge consignment to Sandak(Mro) , the AA has smuggled the arms into Rakhine using the Parva corridor in South Mizoram here the local Khumi villagers are friendly to the insurgents . 

The Assam Rifles which guards this frontier has thin deployment in the Parva area because Mizoram is a peaceful state and there is no local insurgency. So after mobilising additional troops for ‘Operation Sunrise’ in which some AA bases in South Mizoram were demolished, the Assam Rifles had to pull back most of them for deployment in other insurgency affected states of Northeast India.

Top sources in Assam Rifles confirmed to Easternlink that they have ‘credible reports’ of movement of an arms consignment of Arakan Army through the Parva corridor in the Mizoram-CHT-Chin trijunction in March. ” But our estimates are the consignment consisted of 200 rifles and about 40000 rounds of ammunition,” a top AR official said.

It is possible that AR’s intelligence cell would have picked the smuggling of the consignment in the later stages of Arakan Army effort and missed out on the actual scale. 

A top expert on Asia’s arms trafficking based in Bangkok confirmed to Easternlink that the Chinese state-owned ordnance company Norinco supplies non-state actors like Arakan Army using some fronts. They have done these for northeast Indian rebels in the past.. The expert did not wish to be identified because of possible Chinese counter-measures resenting the disclosure.

He said TCL, a Norinco front, loaded the consignment on a ship at Heibei, a small fishing port in South China in the early part of February , even when the Corona pandemic was raging in China. A TCL manager Lin who also goes by the name of Yuthna  was instrument in loading the cargo on the ship. It is not clear whether the AA has paid TCL or whether the Chinese intelligence would have organised covert payment.

The AA is said to have strong links with China since its formation in Kachin in 2009 . Its spokesman Khaine Tukkha recently said “China recognises us while India does not.”  Which explains why AA does not disturb the Chinese deep sea port at Kyaukphyu but kidnaps and badgers Indian construction workers involved in the Kaladan project.

After the consignment was carried into the Sandak (Mro) base near Thanchi, it was taken in small batches on the Thanchi-Naikhong-Farua-Parva-Paletwa route.  That the AA has concentrated much strength in Paletwa which is in Chin state bordering Mizoran is perhaps because it is easier to reach arms consignments brought by sea to Paletwa  rather than across the Rakhine coast where the Burmese navy is active.

One Rakhine source close to AA but on the rolls of the organisation told Easternlink that the consignment brought by AA includes ” one of two” F-6 Chinese Manpads capable to shooting down helicopters, drones and combat aircraft that the Burmese army Tatmadaw is now using against the AA formations in both Rakhine and Chin. The Chinese have earlier supplied Manpads to the United Wa State Army, which is so strong that the Tatmadaw does not dare attack it.

TCL , NSCN(I-M) and the Chinese connection

The TCL connection has earlier figured in a successful NIA case investigating an attempt by the rebels of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland(Issam-Muivah) to bring in a huge consignment of weapons by same Monakhali-Wyakaung route in 2010. NIA arrested NSCN ‘chief of procurement Anthony alias Nikkhang Shimray  and secured the extradition of Chinese-Thai descent arms smuggler Willy Naruenartwanich alias Willy Narue to stand trial in India.

But under pressure from NSCN(I-M) whose negotiations with the Indian government is now in its final stages , Delhi released Shimray , who had been earlier been picked by Indian intelligence at Kathmandu airport and booked under NSA.  Willy also had to be let off and the case practically closed down.  

Cadres of NSCN (I-M) listening to their leaders during the 6th Naga People’s Consultative Meeting in side Camp Hebron-outfit’s Council Head Quarter, 40 Kms away from Dimapur in Nagaland on Friday,27th July 2007. Representatives of different civil society groups, Churches, NGO’s along with Naga Mothers have taken part at the meeting regarding extension of ceasefire between the Government of India and NSCN (I-M). Photo: SUBHAMOY BHATTACHARJEE

“Willy had told Thai police and then the NIA that the arms consignment for the NSCN was to start from Beihei port in South China Sea near Vietnam to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. On the high seas, the consignment was to be shifted to small fishing trawlers to reach Bangladesh, and then to the Northeast,” said a top NIA official, but again wishing to remain anonymous.The NIA had extracted  crucial information about Willy’s contacts and their bases in Bangladesh and had pushed the  Bangladesh government to break the supply chain of arms for the Northeast rebel groups. Willy, of Thai-Chinese origin, was one of the four accused chargesheeted by the NIA in its case number RC-01.

The case was registered by the agency in 2010 in connection with the alleged conspiracy by NSCN (I-M) leaders Anthony Shimray, T.R. Cavlin and Hangshi Ramson, to procure arms and ammunitions from China. They were, however, forced to abort their plan following Shimray’s arrest in September 2010. The other two NSCN (I-M) leaders are still absconding.

According to the NIA, a middleman introduced Shimray to Willy, who runs a spa and a restaurant in Bangkok. “Shimray told Willy he wanted to procure 1,000 firearms. Willy introduced Shimray to Yuthna, who is a representative of a Chinese firm called TCL in 2007. TCL is a front for Chinese arms manufacturing giant Norinco and through TCL they have planned to procure the arms and ammunition,” the NIA official told Easternlink when it tried to seek background information on the Chinese link with arms trafficking to Northeast India through the Bangladesh route that is now being used by the Arakan Army.

“Shimray had told Yuthna that the NSCN (I-M) wants to procure arms for $1million (approximately Rs 60 crore), including AK-series automatic rifles, light machine guns, rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and five lakh rounds of ammunition,” the official said.

According to him, Shimray had paid $700,000 to TCL through Willy in May, 2009. He said the NIA has emails exchanged between Shimray and Willy and electronic receipts sent to Shimray for the payment.

Shimray had also paid $100,000 to shipping agent Kittichai of Intermarine Shipping Company of Bangkok.

The source said the payment was made to the Chinese firm through normal banking channels via a leading private bank’s branch in an African country.

“Willy had also allegedly helped Shimray to get an end-user certificate from Laos, which needs to be submitted to the arms manufacturing companies before the purchase and later to the shipping companies for shipment,” he said.”

Easternlink is yet to establish details of the Arakan Army ‘s arms procurement transaction , but it is reasonably sure that if the AA is paying up , they would use much the same route used by the NSCN(I-M) before the arrest of Anthony Shimray.  But if the Chinese intelligence directly paid off the Norinco, AA would only use the shipping channels in Bangkok.

In April-May 1995, the Indian army had intercepted a group of Naga, Manipuri and Assamese rebels which was carrying into Northeast a huge consignment of weapons that had been landed at Wyakaung. 38 rebels were killed and 110 arrested by the 57th Division of the Indian army in “Operation Golden Bird” which this writer, then the BBC’s East-Northeast India bureau chief , had extensively reported on.

Great similiarity in the route  used within Bangladesh can be found , by the one used by the northeast Indian rebels stumped by ‘Golden Bird’ and that used by AA rebels in their Feb-March 2020 .

In this God-forsaken hill regions where the post-colonial Asian nation states of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar share land and maritime borders, history has a habit of repeating itself and conflict has a history of continuing , even thought the actors in the drama keep changing.

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