NCA woes

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Interesting to see a recent Irrawaddy report that the armed wing of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA), has threatened to pull out of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. The ALA, not to be confused with the Kachin State based Arakan Army which is currently fighting in Rakhine State, or the Arakan Army which is based in Karen State, has not seen conflict for a number of years and has been scattered across Rakhine State and Karen State. It is estimated to have from 20-40 soldiers in Rakhine State, and a similar number on the Thai-Myanmar border.

According to the Irrawaddy report, tensions between the ALA and the Myanmar Army have been rising since last month amid skirmishes in Rakhine State between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin based Arakan Army, with the ALA accusing government troops of committing war crimes, forcing villagers to porter and using civilians as human shields, as well as of violations of the Geneva Convention.

Apparently, the military demanded evidence following the allegations. But after the ALA provided 15 audio and video files that they claim corroborate their accusations, the military responded by pursuing criminal charges against ALA spokesman Khine Myo Htun who was charged under Article 505 of the Myanmar criminal code, covering broad incitement provisions that carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

The Arakan Liberation Party was originally formed in 1968 by Khaing Pray Thein. However the Burmese regime moved quickly to quash the movement and arrested many of its leaders jailing them for two to three years. After being granted an amnesty in the early 1970s, ALP President Khaing Moe Linn and Vice Chairman Khaing Ba Kyaw, re-formed the ALP with support from the Karen National Union (KNU). The KNLA trained and armed as many as 300 ALA soldiers and it soon became a leading member of the National Democratic Front (NDF) after it was created in 1976. The ALP/ALA was reorganised in 1981 under the leadership of Khai Ray Khai, with the goal of establishing a sovereign state in Rakhine State.

On 5 April 2012, representatives of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), led by its Vice President Khaing Soe Naing Aung, inked a preliminary peace agreement with the Myanmar Government.

The armed wing of the ALP, the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA) operates as a mobile force in the southern Chin Hills or northern Arakan Hills and has been known to be active in the interior of Arakan State including Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U townships. In addition, the ALP still has cadres along the Thai-Myanmar border and was reported to have been involved in a joint ambush with Klo Htoo Baw Battalion and All Burma Student Democratic Front troops in Karen State on 15 October 2011.

Bangladeshi authorities recognized the ALP as a terrorist group after the kidnapping of a Danida Director in 2008 and the killing of a local Thansi headman in 2009. In addition, there have also been allegations of growing opium and smuggling it within Bangladeshi territory with the BIPSS Security and Peace Review noting that:

The ALP sometimes coerces Bangladeshi tribesmen into growing poppy in the interior of Chittagong Hill Tracts.

That said, however, there have been no recent reports of such activities and these were most likely local unit actions rather than a policy of the ALP leadership. The US Embassy in Rangoon noted, in a September 2006 cable, that it:

. . . has no information that the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) has engaged in any activities that are considered acts of terrorism . . .[and that there is] no information that the ALP, or its armed wing the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA), has engaged in hijacking or sabotage of civilian conveyances.

In 2004, the Arakan Liberation Party was a founding member of the Arakan National Council (ANC) an Arakan alliance and member of the UNFC composed of the Arakan League for Democracy, the Democratic Party of Arakan, the National United Party of Arakan (NUPA), the All Arakan Students Youth Congress, the Arakan Women Welfare Association, and the Rakhine Women Union (RWU).

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