Monthly Report | Febuary 2024

Photo/AA Info Desk

Social Disruption: Junta Restrictions and Arakan Exodus

Monitoring of a brief situation of political tension, economic issues, social issues, and humanitarian issues in Western Myanmar in Febuary 2024.

About report

This report is part of the CAS's monthly series, which delves into four key areas of the state of Arakan. The first section addresses political concerns, including the armed revolution, junta activities, and issues of political freedom. The second examines the state's economic climate, focusing on rising prices, declining demand, foreign direct investment, and border trade. The third and fourth sections cover social and humanitarian issues, respectively; these include education, health, migration, and the internally displaced persons (IDP) population.

Key data in the report are sourced from local media outlets, such as DMG, Western News, among others. The aim of this report is to shed new light on the situation for observers endeavoring to comprehend the dynamics at play in the region.

Key Remarks

- High levels of armed tensions in Arakan politics were evident throughout February. As of February 29, the AA had captured six major towns, including Paletwa, Pauktaw, Kyauktaw, Minbya, Myebone, and Mrauk-U, along with several other small towns, particularly in the northern and central parts of the state. AA forces continued intensive fighting in the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, and Rambree. Surrenders, retreats, and atrocities committed by the junta forces are ongoing.

- Due to the armed clashes and political instabilities, the Rakhine economy experienced a significant crisis. The banking system collapsed, cash scarcity worsened, productivity decreased, and the economy nearly collapsed entirely. Additionally, while Chinese investments continued to operate, the construction of India’s Kaladan project was temporarily halted due to insecurity in the Paletwa region, stemming from air strikes by the junta forces.

- Rakhine ethnic communities outside of Rakhine state faced arrests and torture by junta authorities in Yangon and Mandalay while attempting to return home. Some were released after confessing not to return to Rakhine state, but many remain detained. Nearly half of the population in Sittwe attempted to flee to other parts of the state or major cities like Yangon and Mandalay, causing a surge in the price of air tickets in Sittwe and leaving many unable to afford them.

- The humanitarian demand in Rakhine state reached unprecedented levels. Many sources reported that the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) had exceeded 300,000. Amidst this dire situation, junta authorities mobilized to recruit several hundred Rohingya youths into the military to fight against the Arakan Army. Meanwhile, the UN and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) providing humanitarian assistance began retreating from the northern parts of Rakhine state, especially towns like Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Sittwe.

Table of Content

  • Part- I: Political Affairs
  • Part- II: Economic Situations
  • Part- III: Social Issues
  • Part- IV: Humanitarian Issues
  • Part- I: Political Affairs

    The politics of Arakan during February were primarily dominated by news related to armed conflicts, including casualties, surrenders, atrocities, displacements, inspections, military exercises, reinforcement, recruitment, and propaganda from the junta council (SAC authority). Additionally, there were inspections, landmine clearance operations, seizures, warnings, and public relations activities from the ULA/AA, along with intense armed clashes between the two-armed parties.

    Regarding junta actions, on February 1, 2024, the junta imposed a curfew in Sittwe due to increasing military activities. The following day, the junta military launched attacks on AA forces in Rambree from the air, navy, and ground. On February 3, 2024, heavy shooting was heard from border guards at the entrance of Maungdaw. Consequently, the largest Taung Bazaar Border Guard Station, with about 300 personnel in Buthidaung township, surrendered to the Arakan Army (AA). Two days later, 106 junta border guard police personnel reportedly fled to Bangladesh. On the same day, it was reported that the military council was smuggling weapons under the pretense of sending food to Rakhine. Concerns also rose in Taungup regarding reports of houses being stolen from fleeing residents. On February 6, 2024, family members of the military council in Kyauk Phyu were moved to Thandwe by cargo ship.On the same day, two navy ships sent to support Kyauktaw were hit by heavy artillery shells fired by the AA and forced to turn back.

    On February 8, 2024, the junta claimed that reports of over 60 houses being destroyed by Tatmadaw airstrikes and artillery fire in Ramree were false. On the same day, Taunggoke Township was reportedly bombed by the military council for the first time using a jet fighter. One day later, the junta media stated that malicious media accused the Tatmadaw of using poisonous gas bombs. As of February 11, many temples in Rakhine were reported to have become areas free of junta soldiers. Additionally, Rakhine members of the military council and several Rakhine ministers arrived in Sittwe to hold talks to end the conflict. Furthermore, three warships of the military council were reportedly sunk by the AA in Kyauktaw, with photo evidence, and the AA rescued those who swam to safety. On the next day, police and junta soldiers abandoned their stations in Myebon.

    On February 14, the military council reportedly launched a sea and air attack to recapture Minbya, but retreated after two warships were sunk and damaged. The following day, 330 border guard police personnel fled to Bangladesh and were handed over to Myanmar. As of February 16, family members and military equipment from Maei City were moved to Ann by helicopter. On the next day, a heavy fire broke out in the city of Rambree due to aerial bombardment by the military council.

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    The CAS is an independent, non-partisan and research-oriented group conducting research and analyzing issues related to Arakan/Rakhine affairs.

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