HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesCivilians flee Sittwe city as Myanmar army-rebels clash

Civilians flee Sittwe city as Myanmar army-rebels clash

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New Delhi: Fighting between Myanmar’s army and the rebel Arakan Army has intensified in the strategically located Sittwe city in Rakhine province, where India has built a port for smooth connectivity to its landlocked north-eastern states via the Bay of Bengal.

Locals are leaving Sittwe city in large numbers following the Arakan Army’s rumoured ultimatum to the regional operation command of Myanmar Army to leave Sittwe or surrender to them, according to people familiar with the developments.

The army is not only trying to safeguard Sittwe port but also the Chinese port in the Bay of Bengal, they said, adding that last week the army destroyed the Mai bridge and Kyauk Kyi Po bridge in Mai township in Rakhine to disrupt advancement of the Arakan Army towards Kyaukpyu, where China has built and is running a port.

The Myanmar junta has been under huge pressure in the Rakhine state from the Arakan Army over the past few months. It is fast losing control in the states bordering India and China. The Arakan Army leadership aims to control the entire state, buoyed by its recent success, said experts on India-Myanmar affairs.

In a recent interview to the BBC, commander-in-chief of the Arakan Army, Major General Twan Mrat Naing, emphasised that the primary focus of the revolution is to fulfil the aspirations of Rakhine nationalism, known as the “Way of Rakhita”. Naing, however, affirmed his support for the unity and development of Myanmar, claiming that the Arakan Army has no intention of declaring independence.

The Arakan Army is now in communication with the National Unity Government, perceived as the successor to the democratic force NLD, and is providing assistance with pertinent matters. ET had earlier reported that India is mulling options to open channels of communication with the ethnic groups of Myanmar.Sittwe Port has been developed as part of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project funded under grant-in-aid assistance from India. Once fully operationalised, the waterway and road components of the project will link the east coast of India to the north-eastern states through the Sittwe port.In May 2023, India’s ports, shipping and waterways minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Myanmar’s transport and communications minister, Admiral Tin Aung San, inaugurated the Sittwe Port. During that event the two ministers received the first Indian cargo ship, which had been flagged off from Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port in Kolkata.

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