Kayah State Resistance Groups Reject Ceasefire with Myanmar Junta
By The Irrawaddy 17 June 2021
The announcement of a ceasefire by the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) does not represent all the Karenni resistance fighters engaged in armed struggle against the military regime in Kayah State, said a resistance group information officer.
On June 15, the KNDF released a statement saying it would temporarily cease attacks as towns and villages were being damaged and more than 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes. It said the decision was made at the request of local peace organizations and religious leaders.
“That letter was issued by a group [within the network]. We knew nothing about it. Kayah Li Phu group has also issued a statement that they do not accept that statement. We won’t stop fighting,” said a KNDF spokesman.
The KNDF is a network of civilian resistance fighters, Karenni organizations and armed groups in Kayah State, southeast Myanmar.
KNDF civilian resistance fighters were involved in fierce clashes with junta troops in Demoso, Loikaw and Pruso townships from May 21 to June 12.
The decision to stop fighting has met with opposition from young civilian resistance fighters fighting under the flag of the KNDF.
Three groups from the KNDF announced the ceasefire with the regime – the Karenni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF), Karenni National Peace and Development Party (KNPDP) and Kayan New Land Party (KNLP) – according to a KNDF member.
Some lower-level members of the KNPLF, KNPDP, and KNLP fought alongside local resistance fighters in Kayah. However, the leaders of those groups negotiated with the military regime to stop the fighting.
“The KNPLF and KNPDP are the border guard forces. They along with the KNLP held talks [with the regime]. But, they didn’t use their name. They used the name of the KNDF instead. They don’t represent the KNDF. We young people didn’t know about the talks,” said a KNDF member.
All three groups had previously signed a truce with Myanmar’s military between 1990 and 2000.
The leadership of the three groups have helped the junta in their battles with local resistance fighters, with the KNPLF and the KNLP reported to have assisted the regime when it brought in reinforcements from southern Shan State to attack local resistance groups.
Karenni forces will have to meet and talk again as those groups announced the ceasefire under the name of KNDF without the consent of all the groups involved in the network, said a KNDF member.
The Kayah Li Phu Youth Central Committee released a statement saying the statement by the KNDF has nothing to do with them.
“We would say that the statement does not represent us all. Things are different from one place to another. That statement was issued in response to a situation in a particular place and can’t cover all places. So we say that statement is nothing to do with us,” said the information officer of the Kayah Li Phu Youth Central Committee
However, a spokesman of the Demoso Township People’s Defense Force (PDF) said the group has stopped fighting in response to the ceasefire announcement of the KNDF.
“When we fight again, we can no longer fight in the town and villages. They have burned down many buildings in the town. Many people are left homeless. Although we were fighting the military, they destroyed houses. So if we fight again, they will continue to destroy houses. So we have stopped fighting,” said the Demoso PDF spokesman.
The leaders of PDFs and Generation-Z fighters were not involved in peace talks with the regime. Only the KNPLF, KNPDP, and KNLP held talks with the regime. The military regime agreed not to arrest armed civilian fighters during the truce, said the Demoso PDF spokesman.
“But we will fight back if they launch attacks on us. In the meantime, we will wait for the nationwide D-Day [to be announced by the parallel National Unity Government (NUG)]. Otherwise, we will only suffer. We will wait for the NUG defence minister U Yee Mon. If the whole country rises, we won’t wait for the military to attack us. We will attack them first. But for now, only Karenni people are suffering,” he said.
The Demoso PDF will remain active in the western part of the town and Dawt Ngan Khar ward. It had been weeks since the military regime held secret talks over a ceasefire in Kayah State. As the talks went on, the regime asked displaced persons to return to their homes.
“I think they don’t want to see camps for the internally displaced in Kayah State. And they want to cover up the fact that they destroyed houses. So they are asking people to return to their homes. People will rebuild their homes anyway when they return. The military regime wants to make it appear as if nothing has happened in Kayah,” said a Karenni activist.
Residents of Ngwe Taung village in Demoso were asked to return to their homes by the junta on June 14 and 15. Villagers came back to find that at least 20 houses and shops had been looted while they were away.
Returnees are now clearing rubble from their homes. Even the residents of Dawt Ngan Khar ward, which has seen the heaviest urban fighting in Kayah State, are returning to their homes.
The military regime however did not officially announce its ceasefire with local armed groups and its call for locals to return home. At least 30 buildings, including places of worship, were damaged or destroyed by Myanmar military artillery strikes during the fighting between May 21 and June 12 in Demoso.
Four civilians were killed when junta forces shelled a church in Kayan Tharyar village in Loikaw where displaced persons were sheltering. More than 100,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Kayah State.
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