Junta and Arakan Army swap prisoners in Rakhine state

Myanmar’s military and the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army have exchanged prisoners as a seven-week ceasefire still holds.

The Jan. 15 prisoner swap took place near Rakhine state’s Ponnagyun township, a local witness, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told RFA.

He said both sides sent a vehicle to Kun Taung village on Sunday afternoon to carry out the exchange.

“The Arakan Army released five people: a police corporal, a sub-inspector, a lance corporal and two policemen,” the local said, adding that the junta freed two AA soldiers.

Neither side has released any information on the exchange.

RFA tried to contact AA spokesman Khine Thukha but was unable to get in touch.

The prisoner swap follows a Jan. 3 exchange near the same village when a major from each side was released along with some junta and AA soldiers, locals told RFA.

On Nov. 15, 2021, the Arakan Army released 15 soldiers and police officers near Ponnagyun.

Fighting between the two sides resumed in July, following a two-year lull. During that time, nearly 100 civilians were arrested by the junta and accused of working with the AA, Khine Thukha told RFA last month.

The locals were charged with illegal association and incitement against junta employees, he said. Seven were released in January, while the rest are still being detained.

The Arakan Army and the military agreed a ceasefire at the end of November last year, with the AA citing humanitarian reasons because junta bombs and roadblocks had cut off supplies.

The informal agreement has so far held, allowing the reopening of roads and the free movement of civilians and goods between Yangon and the Rakhine capital Sittwe, northern Rakhine and southern Chin state, according to a UNHCR report on Jan. 9.

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