While the clashes between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Myanmar Army have been raging, the ongoing struggle of the Arakan people and the Myanmar Army has also been on the boil. Myanmar is no stranger to ethnic conflicts and secessionist movements, and these conflicts have often spilled across international borders. Observers view these conflicts as having arisen out of non-adherence to the Panglong Agreement between three ethnic tribes (Shan, Kachin, Chin) of Myanmar (at that time Burma) and Aung San, the father of Aung San Su Kyi. The Panglong Agreement promises these tribes autonomy in the form of ethnic states within Burma. The other problem has been that other ethnic groups, who were not party to the Panglong Agreement, began armed movements for their own autonomy. These ethnic groups include Nagas, Arakanese, Karens, and Rohingyas to name a few.
One of the fiercest conflicts between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has raged in the north of Burma bordering Arunachal Pradesh in India and Yunnan in China. In the past, the KIA has aided Indian Naga rebels in reaching China. They have also housed United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) fighters in their camps. These ties at present stand broken.
The Chin hills in Myanmar consist of tribes such as Asho, K'cho, Khumi, Zomi, Laizo, Laimi, Matu, and Mara. The Chin National Army stopped its armed resistance to Myanmar’s rule after entering into a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar State in 2015.
The Rakhine state in Myanmar, a term rejected by the inhabitants of the Rakhine state who prefer the term Arakan to Rakhine, is a coastal state in the south-west of the country. The area borders Bangladesh to the West, and the Chin state to the North. As non-signatories to the Panglong Agreement, the Arakans believe that Myanmar State views them as lesser people. This has been further compounded by the recent fighting that broke out between the ARSA and the Myanmar Army.
The Arakan Army (AA) formed in 2008 has around 3000 cadres. It is allied with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). The AA has been locked in conflict with the Myanmar Army on several fronts in the Kachin state in the north, Shan state in the east, bordering China, Laos, and Thailand, and in the Arakan state. While the bulk of the fighting has taken place in the Arakan state, the AA has no ties or sympathies with or towards the ARSA, terming them recently as “savage Bengali Muslim terrorists”. The fighting has extended to the Chin state to the north where the bulk of the tribal population is ethnically related to the Mizo people. The AA have been accused in the past of kidnapping Chin people to do labour for the AA, as well as extortion in the Chin state. Despite a ceasefire agreement being in force between the Chin National Army and the Myanmar state, the conflict between the AA and the Myanmar Army has resulted in over 1600 refugees fleeing the violence and entering Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district, as reported by the Mizoram Post on the 4th of December. The refugees are currently lodged in Zochachhuah, Hmawngbuchhuah, Laitlang, and Dumzautlang villages in Lawngtlai. Police officials have also mentioned that there is no presence of Rohingyas among the refugees.