In the midst of the tumultuous period of 2018-19, marked by heightened clashes with the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar's military implemented drastic measures, including severing food supplies and shutting down highways in select northern cities. Fast forward to the present, and the current blockade has surpassed previous actions in its unprecedented severity, casting a shadow over the southern sector of the country.
While fierce battles raged in the far north, particularly in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and the northern mountainous regions, the flames of war did not significantly reach from Kyaukphyu to the south. However, the present situation paints a starkly different picture, as a comprehensive closure encases the entire southern sector of the city. Both highway and local bus routes, as well as access points from villages to the city, have been sealed off, extending beyond the city to shut down exits to the villages.
The closure of the Arakan and Ayeyarwady border highway gates at the Gwa township's southern exit has brought the flow of goods to a standstill since noon yesterday. Even non-highway roads crucial for security, connecting villages, have been shut down, marking an unusual level of preparedness by the military council.
It appears that this time, the military council has made unexpected preparations, evident in the morning announcement of an impending battle followed by an afternoon directive that covered the entire state.
The repercussions of a complete cessation of goods flow will undoubtedly be felt, particularly in Rakhine, which heavily relies on imports, including rice, from the mainland. The closure raises concerns about the welfare of the local population and the potential humanitarian crisis that may unfold as a result of restricted access to essential supplies.
Examining the evolving conflict on the map, one notices a dwindling presence of the revolutionary forces. If you compare the news of their early spring battles, Rakhine and Ayeyarwady are the only places left on the map.
The previous attempt by the military council troops during the Spring Revolution in early 2022 to clear the border between Irrawaddy and Rakhine led to avoidance by some groups in that area, resulting in a conspicuous absence of news about Ayeyarwady and Rakhine in subsequent reports.
As tensions escalate and the southern region finds itself under an unprecedented blockade, the question arises: will the AA's 'offensive' extend from the north to the south this time?