Myanmar officially brands Rakhine rebels a terrorist group

YANGON, MYANMAR (AP) — Myanmar has officially designated an armed ethnic rebel group known as the Arakan Army a terrorist organisation.

The declaration, published in official notices in Tuesday’s newspapers, came after more than a year of bitter fighting between government forces and the guerrilla group, which represents the inhabitants of Rakhine state in western Myanmar. It is one of more than a dozen ethnic minorities in Myanmar seeking autonomy. The notice said the Arakan Army and an affiliated organisation, the United League of Arakan, “have caused serious losses of public security, lives and property, important infrastructures of the public and private sector, state-owned buildings, vehicles, equipment and materials.”

The Arakan Army said it is seeking self-determination. It has engaged in increasingly fierce combat with government forces since late 2018. It has formed alliances with several other armed ethnic rebel groups which have helped it keep the government off balance by staging joint attacks in other areas of the country.

In a statement, the group said the government declaration “indicates that the Myanmar colonial rulers do not have a policy to solve political problems with other non-Burmans by equitable and peaceful means. But it indicates (the intention) for a solution by force.” Burmans are the majority ethnic group in Myanmar and dominate the government and military.

In the past three decades, the government has reached various cease-fire arrangements with many groups, but it is striving for a comprehensive, more permanent political situation. Most of the groups have so far rejected the government’s attempts at a settlement, and combat is ongoing in northern and western areas of the country.