The Arakan Liberation: An Interview with Political Analyst

by mohingamatters

While the Three Brotherhood Alliance’s offensives have slowed down in the Shan-north after the ceasefire agreement with the regime, the Arakan Army (AA) has accelerated its effort to control as many areas as possible in the Rakhine and Chin states. To this day, the AA has managed to capture Paletwa, Pauk Taw, Kyauk Taw, Minbya, Mrauk-U, and Myebon towns as well as over 200 regime stations. We talked with a former journalist/current political analyst to understand how far the AA will go and what impact it will have on the people.

MM: We are hearing some very encouraging news from Rakhine State, where the Arakan Army (AA) has achieved significant victories over the regime’s forces in various areas and now controls the majority of the state. How do you feel about these developments?

Analyst: First of all, I am so happy to hear the great victory news of the AA from Rakhine State. People can start to believe that they are going to be free from the dictatorship soon. At the same time, I am concerned that the regime would retaliate and oppress even more innocent people including Rohingyas and marginalized groups.

MM: What do you believe is the AA’s objective in this revolution? Do you anticipate the AA will seek to assume control over the entire Rakhine State?

Analyst: AA’s political ambition may not be exactly the same as the other resistance forces in the rest of the country but share significant common grounds in eradicating the regime. And yes, I believe AA plans to take control of the entire Rakhine state.

MM: What level of public support do you think the AA has in Rakhine State?

Analyst: It’s clearly seen in the victories of the AA how much public support it has in Rakhine State. No public support, no accomplishment.

MM: The AA has been urging displaced people to return to their homes following the conflicts. Do you believe it is safe for people to return now?

Analyst: Honestly, I don’t think there is complete safety for the displaced people in those areas. The regime would always try to bomb the regions they lost control and use civilians as human shields. Those risks always exist. And no party could guarantee a 100 percent safety. It’s not time yet.

MM: There have been reports of dozens of youths being arrested at Sittwe Airport by the regime last week. Do you perceive this as a retaliatory action in response to the AA’s success? How do you think the AA and the people can address this challenge?

Analyst: The regime will continue to be cruel and cunning; its troops will abduct youths and torture the elderlies. It’s a standard procedure for the military to take on the unarmed individuals and commit war crimes whenever it loses on the battlefield. The arrest of those youths was another example, of course. It was a retribution for the AA’s victories. It is difficult to say how people can overcome this. Keeping accurate information flow and staying together in unity would be a start.

MM: Due to the conscription law, many young people have fled major cities in search of safety abroad. Do you think Rakhine State could serve as a safe haven for these individuals? If so, do you believe the local Rakhine population will welcome them?

Analyst: I don’t think those areas under the control of AA in Rakhine State are ready for this purpose just yet, solely for safety issues. The regime would continue to attack. People migrating to those townships would weaken the AA’s upper hand on the battlefield. In addition to that, the military would also try to stir racial and religious conflicts if people moved there right now.

MM: Is the goal of achieving liberation in Arakan aligned with the broader goals of the entire resistance movement, or are they different agendas?

Analyst: The Arakan Liberation may have a slight difference from those of the rest of the country despite sharing a common objective of resisting the junta. The people of Rakhine may have a stronger motivation and agenda. In the old times, Arakan had its monarch and lived independently from the mainland Myanmar. The push for such independence can be extremely strong.

MM: Reports are suggesting that the military regime has armed Rohingyas and coerced them into joining the fight against the AA. It’s also been said that Rohingya refugees have been promised citizenship if they serve in the military. How credible do you find these reports, and what impact might such incentives have on refugees?

Analyst: The military would continue to haunt Rohingyas in various ways. They are marginalized and helpless. Of course, the military would lure them into warfare with citizenship as a bait. Back in 2010, same thing happened. The generals asked Rohingyas to vote for their proxy political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Understanding how ruthless the military has been and continues to be towards Rohingyas, nobody finds the generals credible enough to join them on the battlefield. Unfortunately, it may not even be an option, it’s very likely they are forced to take up arms at gunpoint. There is no point of victim-blaming. We must continue to help them in every way to avoid such unfortunate circumstances.

MM: In the midst of ongoing conflict, Rohingya refugees who are unable to seek refuge in the Rakhine mainland or bordering countries face challenges. Who do you think can provide the most support to these refugees?

Analyst: It’s an extremely difficult situation for Rohingyas. The idea of coexisting between the two communities of Rakhine and Rohingyas has merely materialized. It will take time to build into a fruitful relationship. Warfare is getting in the way now. Since no help can be expected from the outside world or even from the rest of the country at this stage, it’s crucial that coexistence must be adopted and cherished by all parties involved.

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