Fighting Flares in Northeast as High-Level Peace Meeting Nears

By Lawi Weng 28 August 2015

RANGOON — As peace negotiators continue to insist that a nationwide ceasefire is within reach, clashes reportedly broke out again this week in Shan and Kachin states ahead of a planned meeting between a handful of ethnic armed groups, President Thein Sein and Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

The Ta’ang(Palaung) National Liberation Army (TNLA)said fighting with the Burma Army took placein anarea of the ethnic armed group’scontrol in NamhsanTownship, Shan State, with the TNLA claiming to have killed two government soldiers after coming under attackat the village of Nang Kay.

Tar Bong Kyaw,TNLA general secretary, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that clashes had occurredalmost every daythis week amid an increased deployment of Burma Army troops in the area.

“We have five brigades. They chased every one of our brigades and attacked our troops’ bases. They even vowed to destroy our TNLA,” said Tar Bong Kyaw, who claimed that Burma Army officers were telling ethnic Palaung community leaders in northern Shan State that they would “destroy” the TNLA in the same way that the government has largely crushed a rebellion of ethnic Kokang insurgents in the state’s northeast.

Fighting also took place this week northeast of Namhsanin Manton Township, the TNLA leader said.

The military-owned Myawaddynews outlet reported that fighting broke out between the Burma Army and Kachin Independence Army(KIA) troops as well, on Wednesday in Kachin State’s SumprabumTownship.

Sai Oo, a colonel from the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), saidsouthern Shan State also saw conflict this week Tuesday between his group and government troops in Kunhing Township.

The latest clashes come as five ethnic armed groups, including leaders from the so-called “Senior Delegation” of the 15-member Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), prepare to meet Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing, Burma’s commander-in-chief, on Sept. 9 in Naypyidaw to discuss the protracted negotiations over a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Representatives from the Karen National Union (KNU), New Mon State Party, Karen National Progressive Party, Shan State Progressive Party and Kachin Independence Organization—the KIA’s political wing—are expected to attend the meeting, including Naw Zipporah Sein, KNU vice chairman and head of the Special Delegation.

She told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the ethnic leaders will stick to their insistence that any peace deal be “all-inclusive,” a reference to the government’s unwillingness to allow three ethnic armed groups, including the TNLA, to sign the accord. The Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) are the other two groups excluded from the government’s list of acceptable signatories.

“There should be a political guarantee for the three groups,” she said, referring to a proposed arrangement whereby the three groups would be given the option to eventually add their names to the nationwide ceasefire.“If the Burma Army and the government do not want them to participate, or if the army continues fighting them, the signing of an NCA will not have meaning.”