Bloodied Barrage in Rakhine

March 9th, 2024  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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To rub salt in the wounds, amidst chaos and despair, the junta has cut off internet in most of Rakhine State’s townships, trapping civilians in the unknown fearing for their lives.

Myanmar’s illegal military junta is plunging Rakhine State into full-scale violence once more in retaliation for the Arakan Army’s further reclaiming of their towns in Rakhine State from the junta over the past few weeks. Coordinated junta barrage of attacks from air, water, and ground has taken hundreds of lives and caused widespread destruction of civilian communities. The junta’s lowest and weakest time presents an unprecedented opportunity for the international community to finally support Myanmar peoples’ efforts to dismantle the murderous, corrupt institution, which is the root cause of decades-long suffering of the peoples—by imposing comprehensive arms embargo, including aviation fuel, and targeted sanctions, setting up a special tribunal to seek justice for the victims and survivors, and a complete cessation of all engagements with the junta.

As the Arakan Army (AA) ramps up its offensive attacks against the junta and expands control over five townships in Rakhine State—Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Myebon, and Pauktaw—and Paletwa in Chin State in the span of a few months, there has been a drastic uptick in the junta’s disproportionate retaliatory attacks. On 27 February, the junta deployed airstrikes on Min Hpu Hospital in Minbya Township, Rakhine State, severely damaging the hospital and injuring many civilian medical workers and ex-junta soldiers-turned-prisoners-of-war. A day after this heinous air attack, the military junta’s navy forces shelled the Myoma Market in Sittwe, Rakhine State’s capital. The attack—carried out around 8.10 am, the busiest time of the day—killed 12 civilians and injured at least 81 people. These actions are on par with the junta’s onslaughts across Myanmar, and only highlight its intention to cause death and destruction.

The junta’s bloody response has exacerbated the already dire humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. Nearly 270,000 people have been reportedly newly displaced, a five-fold increase in Rakhine State. Civilians are left unprotected and caught in the junta’s unprecedented violence—indiscriminate airstrikes, bombardments, and ground offensives. Junta troops have blocked all land routes and waterways out of Rakhine State while imposing severe restrictions on air travel. As a result, civilians are trapped in under-siege villages with nowhere to run, while the junta continues to severely restrict access to humanitarian assistance. To rub salt in the wounds, amidst chaos and despair, the junta has cut off internet in most of Rakhine State’s townships, trapping civilians in the unknown fearing for their lives.

A recent confession by captured junta captain Arkar Myint confirmed what the world already knows: The orders for junta soldiers to target and kill civilians come directly from central command. Ko Ko Aung, another prisoner of war, also confessed to gang-raping a civilian woman at her home in Rakhine State, while forcing her to watch junta soldiers kill her mother. Such heinous crimes are committed carte blanche, without any raised eyebrow about humanity and civilian protection. Contrary to the Myanmar military’s propaganda image as the savior of the country, these soldiers’ confessions—in addition to multiple others—reveal its true, inhumane nature and pattern of widespread and systematic violence directed at civilians.

Never before has the Myanmar military descended to this point. It has no authority or people’s support, while rapidly losing territorial control by the day. Revolutionary forces, on the other hand, are taking over towns and outposts, and building local governance steadily. Yet, the reality remains that the junta’s war of terror against Myanmar’s people, in Rakhine State and across the country, will not cease unless and until the Myanmar military—perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide for the past seven decades—are held to account by international criminal prosecution.

This is the most critical moment for international actors to take meaningful actions, in lieu of burdening Myanmar’s people, exacerbating and prolonging the intensifying crisis caused by the junta. The United Nations (UN) must stop repeating its systemic failures in Myanmar. It must cease all attempts to normalize the junta’s illegal and illegitimate coup attempt, particularly repeated engagements with junta personnel. Any engagement with the junta—including the recent meeting of UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim, Marcoluigi Corsi, with junta’s foreign minister Than Swe on 28 February in Naypyitaw—only lends false legitimacy to the junta, further emboldening it to continue with its terror campaign against civilians. Instead, the UN and the international community at large must escalate diplomatic pressure, and unequivocally reject the junta. Effective and comprehensive punitive measures, including against the finance and weapons flows to the junta, must be imposed immediately to guarantee civilian protection and human security across Myanmar and the region.

At the same time, international aid actors must revamp their ineffective humanitarian approach and promote the people-to-people solidarity approach—if they are serious about fulfilling their responsibility and saving people’s lives. Delivering humanitarian aid through the murderous junta is morally and ethically corrupt, as the junta has been weaponizing aid for its own political advantage. Aid through junta entities has proven to perpetuate cycles of violence and tyranny, thus prolonging the suffering of the people. Every penny spent on humanitarian assistance must not go towards—directly or indirectly—funding the junta’s atrocities against the very people aid actors are mandated to protect. Rather, aid must be provided through the tried-and-true channels which guarantee effectiveness and sustainability: local humanitarian responders who have directly and timely delivered aid to those in direst need over many decades. The time is most vital for the international community to support the will of the Myanmar people to end the Myanmar military’s vicious cycle of violence and atrocity crimes once and for all.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

UNSC Must Act on Increased Atrocities Against Rohingya – Don’t Repeat Past Mistakes

By 26 Rohingya Organisations Worldwide

Security Council must act now as Myanmar military junta’s forced conscription endangers peace, stability, and human security in Myanmar and the region

By 398 Civil Society Organizations

မြန်မာစစ်အုပ်စု၏ အတင်းအဓမ္မ စစ်သားစုဆောင်းမှုသည် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံနှင့် အာဆီယံဒေသတွင်း၏ ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေး၊ တည်ငြိမ်ရေးနှင့် လူသားလုံခြုံမှုအပေါ် အန္တရာယ်ပြုလာနိုင်သောကြောင့် ကုလသမဂ္ဂလုံခြုံရေးကောင်စီမှ ချက်ချင်း အရေးယူဆောင်ရွက်ရန်

By 398 Civil Society Organizations

Press Statement: On Youths, Resistance Groups, and Solidarity Allies Uniting to Resist the Myanmar Junta’s Military Service Law

By ALTSEAN-Burma, Institute for International Dialogue, Milk Tea Alliance, Mingalar Taung Nyunt General Strike Committee and People’s Goal

မြန်မာစစ်တပ်၏ စစ်မှုထမ်းဥပဒေကို ဆန့်ကျင်ရန် လူငယ်များ၊ တော်လှန်ရေး အဖွဲ့အစည်းများနှင့် တစ်သီးပုဂ္ဂလ မဟာမိတ်များ စုစည်းလက်တွဲကြခြင်းအပေါ် သတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By ALTSEAN-Burma, Institute for International Dialogue, Milk Tea Alliance, Mingalar Taung Nyunt General Strike Committee and People’s Goal

Women Subjected to Sexual Violence during the Spring Revolution under the Military Coup

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Burmese Junta Abducted 125 Kaman Muslim from Kyauk Ta Lone IDP camp for Forced Conscription

By Burma Human Rights Network

Burmese Army Forcibly Recruiting Rohingya by Threatening To Cut Food Ration

By Burma Human Rights Network

ASEAN deepening complicity with illegal and illegitimate Myanmar junta through its appointment as coordinator of Russia-ASEAN relations

By Justice For Myanmar

Statement of condemnation of the enactment of conscription law by the military junta in Burma/Myanmar

By Karen Human Rights Group

Statement on Military Council’s Forced Conscription in Rakhine State

By National Unity Government

Statement about the Deaths and Injuries of the Innocent Civilians due to the Artillery Shellings from Terrorist SAC Warship into the Korean Port Market, Sittwe Town, Arakan

By United League of Arakan (Arakan Army)



Junta Imposes Enforced Conscription in Desperate Move to Offset Losses


တာဝန်ယူမှု၊ တာဝန်ခံမှု လုပ်ငန်းစဉ်ကို ရည်ရွယ်၍ လူ့အခွင့်အရေးချိုးဖောက်မှုများကို မှတ်တမ်းတင်နေ သော အရပ်ဖက်လူမှုအဖွဲ့အစည်းများအတွက် လမ်းညွှန်ချက်များ

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”