Kokang Rebels Declare Unilateral Ceasefire

By Lawi Weng 11 June 2015

RANGOON — Ethnic Kokang rebels, who have been warring with the Burmese government for four months along the Sino-Burmese border, have announced a unilateral ceasefire effective June 11.

The Kokang ethnic armed group, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), issued a statement declaring that they would cease hostilities but defend themselves against government troops if necessary.

The statement said the group had been urged to stop fighting by Chinese authorities, and that MNDAA leadership was concerned that continued conflict could derail general elections expected to be held in Burma later this year.

MNDAA spokesman Htun Myat Linn told The Irrawaddy that while the Kokang people do not stand to benefit from elections, as many are not considered citizens of Burma, he does not want them to be responsible for inhibiting progress elsewhere in the country.

“Our country will have an election, and this is important for the country,” Htun Myat Linn said. “We are worried that, because of us, this election will be stopped. We do not want this to happen.”

Fighting between the MNDAA and the Burma Army, which erupted in early February in the remote border region, has been among the most relentless conflict the country has seen in decades.

Government figures account for at least 200 casualties on both sides of the conflict, though higher tolls have been reported by independent media.

The ceasefire announcement was made just after the close of an ethnic leadership summit geared toward finalizing a nationwide ceasefire agreement being negotiated between the government and the country’s myriad ethnic armed groups.

The MNDAA is a member of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents ethnic armed groups in the peace talks, but is not officially recognized by the government and hence ineligible to endorse a nationwide pact.

The summit closed early this week with a vow of solidarity from NCCT members that a nationwide agreement would not be made without the MNDAA and two other armies that are not recognized by the government.

Kokang Special Region is currently under martial law, and was identified last week by Burma’s Union Election Commission as one of three unstable territories—along with Wa and Mong La, both of which also border China—where holding elections was expected to be difficult because government personnel could not move freely.