No peace byprayer, say defiant Rakhine rebels

Panghsang (Myanmar): Rakh­ine rebels locked in a vicious fight with Myanmar’s army will not “get peace by praying”, its commander said as he vowed his forces will fight on despite being outnumbered and under aerial assault.

The increasingly bloody battle in western Rakhine state is between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA), which claims to be fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in one of the country’s poorest states.

With the region under strict lockdown, it is difficult to get a precise death toll, though the military has confirmed over 20 of its security forces have been killed by the AA since January.

Speaking to reporters on Wednes­day from the Wa region of Shan State, AA chief Tun Myat Naing said his forces have no intention of giving up their armed struggle.

“We are not the ones to give up. We have to fight the war,” said the bespectacled major-general.

“We will not get peace by praying.” The rebel leader was speaking in Panghsang, home to the United Wa State Army, a reclusive group who this week invited journalists and other ethnic leaders to commemorate 30 years of autonomy.

The China-backed Wa have a long-standing ceasefire with Myan­mar, which has so far allowed them to operate from a semi-autonomous zone. — AFP

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