US says concerned over western Myanmar insurgent clashes

YANGON (AFP) - The United States on Monday voiced alarm over rare clashes between the Myanmar military and insurgents in Rakhine state believed to have caused hundreds of civilians to flee their homes.

Unrest between the military and Arakan Army (AA) - a group that hails from Rakhine but has previously focused on fighting in Myanmar's conflict-riddled north - has flared in recent days, raising fears that it could complicate the country's delicate nationwide peace process.

The US embassy in Yangon said it was "concerned by reports that hundreds of Rakhine civilians have been displaced by recent fighting" in Rakhine's Kyauktaw township.

"We urge all parties to cease hostilities, and ensure the protection of civilians and timely delivery of all necessary humanitarian assistance to the affected population in accordance with international standards," the embassy said in a statement.

State media reports of clashes since April 17 in Rakhine between the army and AA insurgents are believed to be the first time the rebels have fought troops in their home region.

The state remains deeply troubled after unrelated deadly religious violence in 2012 between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims, mainly from the Rohingya minority.

Myanmar's quasi-civilian government wants to declare an end to civil wars that have plagued its ethnic minority border regions for decades.

Last month it signed a draft peace accord with multiple rebel groups that was hailed as a historic step forward.

But sporadic fighting has continued in northern regions near the Chinese border.

Heavy fighting between the government and Kachin rebels has displaced tens of thousands since a ceasefire collapsed in 2011.

Fighting is also raging in the Kokang region of the northern state of Shan.

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