As Burma Army troops enter southern Chin State’s Matupi Township, members of ethnic Chin political parties say they are worried that fighting will spread in the region.
Reinforcement troops with 100 military vehicles and two helicopters arrived in Matupi on February 3. It shares a border with Paletwa Township, where the Burma Army—or Tatmadaw—and Arakan Army (AA) have engaged in intensified clashes in recent months.
“If they open a military operation in Matupi, both the AA and Tatmadaw have weapons. Our local people will suffer a lot,” Chin National Democratic Party chairperson Zozam told Khonumthung News. “I am so worried that our stability in Chin State will turn into a military front line.”
Salai Aung Ling, secretary of the Chin League for Democracy (CLD), said that the strengthening of the existing strategic command in Matupi is likely an attempt to cut off the AA’s access to other parts of the country. The AA is a member of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups.
“The Arakan Army is active in both Rakhine State and Paletwa Township in Chin State. The Arakan Army’s soldiers used to cross through Matupi Township when they went to Kachin State,” he said. “I think the Burma Army wants to control this road. But if they control this road, clashes will spread to Matupi Township…our local people will suffer a lot.”
The CLD secretary added that continued conflict could not only displace civilians, but also hurt the state and country’s economy.
“Particularly the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project could be stopped. [The conflict] could damage regional stability and local development,” he explained. As of February 6, the Burma Army has banned anyone from taking photos, talking on the phone, or stopping their motorbikes in front of military camps. They have also prohibited travelers from crossing the road in front of their camps after 5:00 p.m.