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Myanmar military, insurgents battle over port town

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Myanmar’s military has launched attacks from the air and the sea to recapture a port town on the Bay of Bengal, an opposition alliance said yesterday, as junta forces face the fiercest offensive from their enemies in years.

The military, which seized power from an elected government in a 2021 coup, is battling a coordinated offensive launched in October by an alliance of three ethnic minority insurgent groups, as well as allied pro-democracy fighters who have taken up arms since the coup.

“The military attacked Pauktaw town with helicopters and artillery fire from a navy ship after we conquered the police station of the town in the morning,” the Three Brotherhood Alliance said on its Telegram channel, referring to the fighting in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State on Thursday.

“In the evening, junta troops came into the town and shot and killed civilians,” the alliance said.

Pauktaw is about 500 kilometres north-west of Myanmar’s main city of Yangon.

The offensive, which the insurgent alliance calls Operation 1027 after the date it was launched, is the biggest the junta has faced in years.

Three rebel groups, aligned with pro-democracy fighters and a parallel, pro-democracy civilian government, have captured several towns and military posts across the country.

The Irrawaddy news portal, citing a resident of Pauktaw, said members of the Arakan Army guerrilla group had earlier taken control of the town.

“All the residents are running away. There is no one in the city, all the shops are closed,” the resident said.

Fighting has also broken out in Shan State on the border with China, where the insurgents have pledged to wrest control of the area from the junta and eradicate online scam centres run illegally there.

In the weeks before the clashes, Chinese officials called on the junta to take stronger action against the scam centres where Chinese and other foreign nationals have been trapped as victims of human trafficking.