Myanmar: Arakan Army Changes Course Amid Military Success – OpEd


The Arakan Army fighting for an independent Rakhine State in southwestern Myanmar seems to have given up its secessionist goal.

“We’ve never mentioned declaring independence before, and we don’t plan to in the future. However, after over 70 years of historical experience, we’ve learned that our goals are unattainable under the Military-led rule in Myanmar. Our vision is to shape Myanmar’s future through unity. Yet, if it’s clear we can’t achieve our aspirations, we must explore other options, shouldn’t we?” said Major General Twan Mrat Naing, commander-in-chief of the Arakan Army (AA), in a BBC interview.

He emphasized that while the primary focus of the revolution is to fulfill the aspirations of Rakhine nationalism, known as the ‘Way of Rakhita’, it was equally important to acknowledge and empathize with the hardships experienced by other ethnic communities.

“Our revolution cannot solely focus on Rakhine nationalism because the fate of all oppressed ethnic groups in Myanmar is inter-connected. We as Rakhine people, have our Rakhita Dream, but we must consider the plight of other ethnic groups, including the majority Bamars in mainland regions, who are also oppressed by the military dictatorship. This understanding became clearer to us as we continued our struggle for revolution”, Major General Twan Mrat Naing said.

Major General Twan Mrat Naing further affirmed his support for the unity and development of Myanmar, stating that AA has no intention of declaring independence.

“We must now prioritize the implementation of multi-ethnic liberation, equal rights, unity, and peace building guided by the Way of Rakhita. Some ethnic groups are not officially recognized in Myanmar’s ethnicities list. Therefore I believe that true progress can only be made when the concept of citizenship rights and responsibilities is clearly defined for all citizens, paving the way for systematic development and a brighter future”, he added.

Major General Twan Mrat Naing further affirmed his support for the unity and development of Myanmar, stating that AA has no intention of declaring independence.

Major General Twan Mrat Naing stated that despite past disputes with the previous democratic government under the National League for Democracy (NLD), AA is now in communication with the National Unity Government (NUG), perceived as the successor to NLD, and is providing assistance with pertinent matters.

“As a significant player in Myanmar’s political landscape, we recognize the importance of discerning whom to engage with and how. Indeed, we had some problems between us in the past. However, we believe there are no permanent enemies or friends. Our aim is to foster lasting friendships based on genuine intentions. We stand ready to assist and support all those who seek the betterment of our nation”, he emphasized.

He underscored the necessity of conducting a revolution under the current circumstances for the benefit of the nation and its people. He also highlighted the importance of tactfully managing potential discord with neighboring countries while striving to attain these objectives.

“I believe that only when the rule of the military dictatorship ends, can we then secure a prosperous future for all Myanmar’s people and ensure lasting peace. However clashes along the China-Myanmar border pose direct threats to China’s border security, and we acknowledge this concern.” 

“Hence China has been urging for restraint with a firm stance. There’s a considerable risk of jeopardizing China’s interests and national security from their perspective.Yet I believe China also desires peace for Myanmar as a whole. It’s crucial to navigate towards our goals without escalating tensions with other nations”, Major General Twan Mrat Naing said.

The Arakan Army, founded in 2009, after the eclipse of the National Unity Party of Arakans ( NUPA), has won a series of military victories against the Tatmadaw (Burmese army) and even captured the strategic river-road junction town of Paletwa.  Myanmar watchers say the Arakan Army now controls 65 percent of territory in Rakhine State and 40 percent in Chin State.

So it seems an odd time to abandon its secessionist aims and can only be explained by its change of objectives. Arakan Army, it now seems, wants to partner the National Unity Government and other rebel armies in creating a truly federal democracy in Myanmar. 

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a former BBC and Reuters correspondent and author of books on South Asian conflicts.

One thought on “Myanmar: Arakan Army Changes Course Amid Military Success – OpEd

  • February 17, 2024 at 3:06 am

    That’s Great


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