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Security forces find more ARSA tunnels in northern Rakhine: state media

The entrance to a tunnel discovered by security forces in northern Rakhine State on Sunday. (Photo: Information Committee)

Burmese security forces have discovered tunnels that they claim were carved out by members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in the villages of Kyaukpandu and Thinbawkway, in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township.

The excavation work was uncovered on Sunday morning, according to state media. A report in the government-run Global New Light of Myanmar (GNLM) did not explicitly indicate what evidence authorities had to link the dig sites to ARSA, offering only the vaguely worded “it is learnt” in attributing news of the discovery of the alleged militants’ hideouts.

Three Korans, two student ID cards, an empty oil can and articles of clothing were among the items found in the Thinbawkway tunnel, according to Tuesday’s edition of the GNLM, which reported that the underground space was capable of accommodating 20-25 people. The GNLM gave the names of the students as listed on the ID cards; DVB has opted not to provide them in consideration of journalistic ethics, given the failure of the state media report to substantiate the alleged ties to ARSA and the significant personal hardship that such tenuous insinuations might put on the affected individuals.

A similar discovery was made in June, when three alleged militants were killed by security forces who were said to be acting in self-defence after they came upon a “terrorist training camp” that included a tunnel in the Mayu Mountains, which span the townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

Elsewhere in Rakhine State on Sunday, four police officers were fired upon between mileposts 45 and 46 of Burma’s shared border with Bangladesh, with the shots reportedly coming from the Bangladesh side.

At about 5:45 p.m., the men faced a barrage of 20-30 shots from small arms fire, which reportedly came from a hill on the Bangladesh side of the border. The four policemen engaged in an exchange of fire with the assailants.

Htan Swan Pyaung, one of the four police officers, returned to his duty station at milepost No. 45 sometime after 6 p.m., with the three other officers apparently pinned down by the gunfire. Twenty police officers including the Aung Thabyay police station’s chief, Aung Myin Myat, rushed to the scene and at 6:45 p.m., the team of reinforcements extracted the three police officers. There were no injuries on the Burmese side of the border.

The identity of the assailants was not known, and on Monday a Burmese police commander sent a “letter of objection” to the relevant border guard authority in the Chittagong area of Bangladesh, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar.

The English-language daily reported that, “with a view to bilateral friendship and based on the existing friendly relation [sic] between the border police forces, the letter was sent to Bangladesh to expose the armed men who attacked the police personnel and to exchange news, information and reply.”

Last month, on the evening of 22 October between mileposts 46 and 47 along the Burma-Bangladesh border, four locals from Aung Thabyay village were fired upon. Two were killed in the attack, and the other two men sustained gunshot wounds and were subsequently hospitalised. As with Sunday’s incident, the identity of the assailants remains unknown.