Arakanese Ceasefire Signatory Threatens Fighting

By Moe Myint 11 May 2016

RANGOON — Last year’s “nationwide ceasefire agreement” may already be unraveling, as one of its signatories, the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA), has threatened to pull out of it, according to ALA communications officer Khine Myo Htun, who added that fighting with the Burma Army could break out at any time.

Tensions between the ALA and the Burma Army have been rising since last month amid skirmishes in Arakan State between the Burma Army and another Arakanese ethnic armed group, the Arakan Army, with the ALA accusing government troops of committing war crimes, forcing villagers to porter and using civilians as human shields, as well as of violations of the Geneva Convention.

The military demanded evidence following the allegations. But after the ALA provided 15 audio and video files that they claim corroborate their accusations, the military responded by pursuing criminal charges against ALA spokesman Khine Myo Htun.

Saw Mra Razar Lin, an ALA peace envoy, said that Khine Myo Htun was charged on Thursday under Article 505 of the Burmese criminal code, covering broad incitement provisions that carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Aye Khin Maung, a police officer in the Arakan State capital Sittwe, told The Irrawaddy Tuesday that Khine Myo Htun’s case was going to be taken up by the courts, which would decide whether to issue an arrest warrant.

“I was told by an informant to flee Sittwe for a while, but I won’t go anywhere,” said Khine Myo Htun. “They can arrest me at my home. I am not guilty so why would I run away?”

On Tuesday, Saw Mra Razar Lin said ALP representatives had met with Arakan State Border Affairs Minister Htein Lin, a colonel in the Burma Army, to discuss Khine Myo Htun’s case and other issues. During the meeting, Burma Army representatives said they were upset by the ALP allegations.

Under the terms of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) that the ALA signed last year, ethnic armed groups and the Burma Army are expected to negotiate and discuss disagreements to prevent them from spiraling out of control.

But unlike the other NCA signatories, the ALA was not invited to be a part of the Joint Monitoring Committee, which serves as a ceasefire watchdog, due to the government’s contention that there was no fighting in Arakan State to be monitored.

“We [the ALA] felt discriminated against,” said Khine Myo Htun.

Saw Kwe Htoo Win, a peace negotiator for the Karen National Union, another NCA signatory, agreed that the previous government had ignored the ALA, despite the admonishments of the other ethnic groups.

But with the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government in power, a different paradigm for peace may be emerging.

Last week, the eight NCA signatories—including the ALA—met with Dr. Tin Myo Win, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal physician, who is likely to play a leading role in making peace with Burma’s ethnic armed groups.

The meeting was meant to lay the groundwork for a so-called “21st century Panglong Conference,” a series of peace talks expected to be hosted by Suu Kyi within the coming months.

“The new government should call a peace meeting as soon as possible to implement the NCA,” said Saw Kwe Htoo Win of the KNU.

The ALA, which signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement in 2012 before signing on to the so-called nationwide accord on Oct. 15, is one of Burma’s smaller non-state rebel groups. About a dozen ethnic armed groups, including some of the largest, opted not to sign the national accord or were denied the opportunity by Burma’s previous government.