Myanmar’s ethnic rebels claim airport capture in new setback for military government

by Admin
Myanmar's ethnic rebels claim airport capture in new setback for military government

One of Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic minority groups battling the military government said it captured an airport serving the country’s top world-class beach resort, marking the first time resistance forces have seized such a facility.

Residents of the area in the southern part of the western state of Rakhine, along with local media, also reported the seizure of Thandwe Airport, also known as Ma Zin Airport, about 260 kilometers (160 miles) northwest of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.

It’s the latest major setback for the military government that took power in 2021 after ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Armed resistance to military rule is taking place in much of the country, led by pro-democracy militants as well as guerrilla groups affiliated with ethnic minorities.

The Arakan Army said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app on Sunday night that it had recovered the bodies of more than 400 soldiers from the recent fighting in the area, as well as a cache of ammunition. The Associated Press could not independently verify the claims by the group, which in the past have been disputed.

The seizure of the airport, one of six in Rakhine, would appear to open the way for the rebels to seize Rakhine’s coastal region, even as they consolidates control over much of the northern part of the state.

The Arakan Army is the military wing of the Buddhist Rakhine minority, which seeks autonomy for Rakhine state from Myanmar’s central government. It has recently also called itself the Arakha Army.

Since November last year, the group has been on the offensive and has gained control of nine of 17 townships, along with one in neighboring Chin state. It is also part of an armed ethnic alliance that launched an offensive last October that gained strategic territory in the country’s northeast on the border with China.

Ngapali, a 7-kilometer (4-mile) long beach on the Bay of Bengal had been getting attention from international tourism but development stalled due to COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict that followed the army takeover.

Sporadic fighting in villages near Ngapali beach on the Bay of Bengal since April has halted flights to the airport, which serves the beach resort, and most of the 46 hotels and guest houses were shut down.

A Ngapali hotel executive who had recently escaped the area told The Associated Press on Monday his staff had fled the property.

A travel agent in the town of Thandwe, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) east of Ngapali, told the AP that she had heard the sound of the fighting coming from outside of the town, but the situation inside was quiet with no guerrillas in the immediate vicinity.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear for their safety.

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