Two residents of Ai Tin village in Ponnagyun Township were arrested at a military checkpoint near Sittwe Township’s Kyauktan village in March 2020, while travelling to the Arakan State capital by motorbike.

Over the past year, the AA has consolidated its control of large parts of Arakan State, strengthening its administrative grip — complete with a judicial system and police force separate from the junta’s own. Operating alongside the regime’s administration, perhaps it was inevitable that the AA and its political wing, the United League of Arakan (ULA), would find themselves on a collision course with the military. 

A large segment of the Thet population resides in remote areas with very limited access to public services as well as opportunities to improve their living standards. To make matters worse, many from Maungdaw, who mainly have engaged in farming for their livelihoods, were forced to flee after violence broke out in the border town. The displaced have since reached different parts of the country, scattering among big societies of other ethnic people.

Myanmar’s young democracy vanished abruptly when the military seized power from the elected civilian government in a coup on February 1, 2021. Myanmar people, who were just starting to become familiar with the democratic process, were pushed back into yet another era of dictatorship. 

Drainage ditches show no sign of proper water flow. Water in the ditches has turned murky as garbage blocks the drains. This is a common sight in Arakan State’s Mrauk-U, which is currently bidding for UNESCO World Heritage status.  

Nine leaders who were serving at the naval base in Thanlyin, including Khaing Moe Lun and Khaing Ray Khaing, were detained and jailed, marking a period of hiatus for their armed revolution. In 1972, they were released in a general amnesty by the BSPP government. Khaing Moe Lun then returned to his native village and worked as a merchant, according to family members. 

U Pe Than, a 66-year-old veteran Arakanese politician who won a seat in two consecutive general elections, stepped away from party politics last year in favour of what he describes as an activism that is instead based on national interest. His decision came in the context of an era in which the popular stance increasingly seems to view party politics as having come to a dead end in Arakan State. 

With the regime under increasing military pressure from resistance forces collectively known as the People’s Defence Force (PDF) as well as ethnic armed organisations like the Karen National Union (KNU), the AA is again under the spotlight and is widely viewed as a potential game changer in what is known as the anti-coup “Spring Revolution”. 

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Myanmar in early 2020, the two governments signed concession and shareholders’ agreements for the Kyaukphyu SEZ, which is sited along the Arakan State coast and is backed by Beijing. The project is to include a deep-sea port, industrial zone and housing estate, and will use more than 4,200 acres of land. 

“I invite the leaders of ethnic armed organisations [EAOs] to talks. I will see all of you personally,” said junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in a televised address carried by state broadcaster Myanmar Radio and Television on April 22.