If anybody reads Myanmar’s state-run daily newspaper, the Global New Light of Myanmar, the oldest English Daily that covers news, the state Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV), one would not fathom the crisis faced by the Myanmar government.

News coming in from dissidents, journalists, and media activists inside Myanmar rebel-held regions gives diametrically opposite news, which is not comfortable for the military junta in the capital, Naypyidaw.
The rebels are upbeat when they could make the government troops withdraw from northern Rakhine State after the onslaught of the rebel Arakan Army (AA).

The AA is one of the three ethnic armies in the Brotherhood Alliance, which launched Operation 1027 against the Myanmar military dictator, which ousted an elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, ending a 10-year experiment with democracy and plunging the Southeast Asian nation into bloody turmoil.

Armed insurgencies by the People’s Defence Force (PDF) of the National Unity Government (NUG) have erupted throughout Myanmar in response to the military government’s crackdown on anti-coup protests.

As of February 7, 2024, at least 6,337 civilians, including children, have been killed by the junta forces and 21,000 arrested.

Meanwhile, pictures and videos surfaced on social media and several other websites of the rebels, indicating that they have taken control of six towns in Rakhine State—Pauktaw, Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Taungpyoletwe and Myebon—and one in Chin State, Paletwa.
The government soldiers, in retaliation, are attacking civilians in the south. The Rohingyas in the north of Rakhine State have also taken the brunt and fled from their settlement.

The guards of the Rohingya settlements have long abandoned their checkposts and the ethnic community has scattered for safety and security.

Unfortunately, the Arakan Army is equally not so kind to them. The Rohingya forced them to flee towards the coasts of the Naf River, with advice to cross into Bangladesh.

They are asked to join their relatives and neighbours living in squalid refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Intensified patrols and vigilance of Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB) and Coast Guards have discouraged them from crossing the river, which borders Bangladesh with Myanmar.

Several sources in Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar and Ghumdhum in Bandarban have indicated that some Rohingya, after taking dangerous journeys through the hill forests, have trekked into the camps.

Officials working with international NGOs have confirmed the incidents of some illegal migration and have been sheltered in the camps by relatives mostly.

The NGO officials declined to be named and said they are not expecting a huge or even moderate influx of Rohingya people, as the borders are sealed.

The refugee leaders and camp leaders are reviewing the situation across the border into Rakhine State. They are in touch with scores of Rohingyas who are living in extreme difficulties.

The Home boss and Chief of BGB have reiterated that they will not allow a single Rohingya to enter Bangladeshi territory under any circumstances.

UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar

On the other end of the world, Myanmar’s ruling military junta has “doubled down” on civilian attacks while showing signs of becoming “increasingly desperate” by imposing military service, the UN special rapporteur UN’s Tom Andrews said at Geneva on Wednesday.

“While wounded and increasingly desperate, the Myanmar military junta remains extremely dangerous,” the UN’s Tom Andrews said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the conscription law, the junta was trying to justify and expand its pattern of forced recruitment.

The junta faces widespread armed opposition to its rule three years after seizing power from an elected civilian government and has recently suffered a series of stunning losses to an armed alliance of ethnic minority groups.

Junta Families Evacuated

On last Saturday, a naval vessel reportedly carrying family members of the junta and police personnel was seen departing from Maday Island, where the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port project is located.

Earlier, on February 15 and 16, the family members were evacuated from Ma Ei town by helicopter. Later the soldiers and police personnel were seen leaving Ma Ei police station in military vehicles.

Following the Arakan Army’s capture of many towns after the conflicts erupted in Ramree, Taungup and Kyaukphyu localities, the military regime relocated their family members to Kyaukphyu, Thandwe and Ann localities. Later, the officer’s families were shifted to Yangon.

Sittwe Braced for Street Fight

Fighting continued in northern and southern Rakhine State since the AA launched an offensive against Myanmar’s junta in mid-November last year.

The AA has seized Mrauk-U, Minbya, Kyauktaw, and Pauktaw towns and Paletwa in southern Chin State, along with numerous junta bases and border outposts. Only Sittwe remains to be occupied by AA.
The AA has urged the government’s Regional Operations Command in the state capital, Sittwe, to surrender. Sittwe is the junta’s administrative seat in Rakhine.

The junta forces are systematically fortifying their defence arrangements in Sittwe. They have obstructed the access of roads and even destroyed many bridges to obstruct AA advancements.

Civil administrative officials and residents have left Sittwe in fear for their lives during the street battle. Many residents cannot afford to leave and there is no way out from Sittwe if fighting breaks out.

Commodities and fuels in Sittwe are running low since the roads were blocked. Shops are selling off their stocks as they are in a hurry to leave the city.

Despite the night curfew in Sittwe, the hospitals and clinics are still operational, but the city is in panic.

The Brotherhood Alliance warned civilians of the rising danger of landmines in Rakhine State, saying the junta’s military is placing landmines around its outposts and bases there.

Nervous Junta

Junta troops arrested around 600 civilians after their flights from Yangon landed at two airports in Sittwe and Kyaukphyu city in Rakhine state, according to family members, who said the military is holding them on suspicion of attempting to join the armed rebels.

The arrests come amid the enactment of a conscription law that has sent draft-eligible civilians fleeing from Myanmar’s cities, saying they would rather leave the country or join anti-junta forces in remote border areas than fight for the military.

India-Myanmar Military Forge Ties

Myanmar Tatmadaw and the Indian Armed Forces to forge friendly ties and further cooperation.

The Vice-Chairman of the State Administration Council Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Commander-in-Chief (Army) Vice-Senior General Soe Win held parleys with an India Army delegation led by Lt-Gen Harjeet Singh Sahi, the General Officer Commanding III

Corps of the Indian Armed Forces, at the capital Naypyidaw on Wednesday, according to the official daily The Global New Light of Myanmar.

They cordially discussed friendly relations between Myanmar and India and the two armed forces and promotion of further cooperation, and plans to cooperate in peace and stability, security and development at the border regions between the two countries.

Saleem Samad, is Deputy Editor of The Daily Messenger, an award-winning independent journalist, and recipient of the Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <saleemsamad@hotmail.com>; Twitter (X) @saleemsamad

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