New Delhi: Myanmar is believed to have discovered an alleged Sino-Pak axis that is supplying China made arms to two rebel groups in the country’s restive Rakhine province to target Indian assets including Kaladan multi modal project. The groups are also allegedly fuelling terror both in Myanmar and across the border in Bangladesh.
The nexus has been revealed following arrests by the authorities of Thailand along the Thai-Myanmar border. The Thai authorities shared details of the investigation with Myanmar’s security establishment, Indian Economic Times has learnt. The revelations came to light close on the heels of Myanmar Army’s top brass expressing public displeasure against China’s role in fuelling insurgency in the country.
In late June, Thai security officials intercepted a shipment of weapons in the town of Mae Sot across the border from Myawaddy in Myanmar’s Karen State. They seized a large cache of brand-new Chinese-made weapons and detained two Thai citizens, Economic Times has reliably gathered.
The Thai authorities investigating the weapons shipment have since made additional arrests. The seized weapons were ultimately destined for Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh, persons familiar with the developments indicated to ET.
The Arakan Army (AA) in the Rakhine state had placed orders for the seized weapons, one of the persons quoted above informed. In Myanmar, the AA is designated as terrorist organizations.
Kaladan multi-modal project passes through the Rakhine state and AA has been targeting the project that can transform the region. The Kaladan project connects Kolkata with Sittwe port in Rakhine State by sea.
Besides the two Thai nationals, Pakistani nationals were also involved in procuring the weapons seized in Mae Sot. These men are believed to have previously lived in Cambodia before moving to Thailand, brining into larger underground networks and terrorism links in the region, according to a recent report in Myanmar’s leading English media The Irrawaddy. Thai security establishment is closely monitoring the activities of Pakistanis living in Mae Sot.
There are significant differences between the ARSA and the AA. The ARSA has been accused of having connections with foreign terrorist groups, according to The Irrawaddy report. Abdus Qadoos Burmi, a Pakistani of Rohingya descent based in Karachi who is considered the group’s mentor, has called for “jihad” in Myanmar and has well-documented links to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Burmi has even appeared at meetings with the LeT chief Hafiz Mohammed Syed in Pakistan and the ARSA has received donations and training from the broader Islamist terror networks in East Asia, according to The Irrawaddy. Its leader, Attah Ullah, was born in Pakistan and raised in Saudi Arabia.
The ARSA targeted minorities in Rakhine state in 2017 and over the past few years launched daring attacks on more than 30 police posts and an army base in Rakhine, resulting in the deaths of dozens of ARSA insurgents as well as security personnel, according to Myanmar authorities.
The ARSA is trying to procure additional arms as Myanmar Army has intensified operations in Rakhine state. Thai and Myanmar authorities have reportedly stepped up vigil to launch a crackdown on arms smuggling.