Military Extends Ceasefire by 2 Months, Rakhine Still Excluded

By Htet Naing Zaw 1 July 2019

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, has extended its unilateral ceasefire across five regional commands in Kachin and Shan states for two more months, concluding on August 31.

This is the second time the military has extended its unilateral ceasefire since it announced its original four-month truce on Dec. 21 in its Northern Command in Kachin State, and the Northeastern, Eastern, Central Eastern and Triangle commands in Shan State.

The move, the Tatmadaw said, is aimed at fostering constructive peace talks with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) or more limited bilateral deals with the military.

“Clashes have abated significantly compared to the past, and it is the same in other commands. Local people have benefitted [from the truce], and we believe they now have growing hopes for peace. Therefore, we have extended truce in response to this,” Tatmadaw spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun told the media.

It is also because of the Tatmadaw’s commitment to achieving peace by 2020 as pledged by army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to the people, he said.

“The Tatmadaw has observed a unilateral ceasefire, which is unprecedented in Myanmar’s history. We hope the EAOs can take this opportunity to secure eternal peace,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

The EAOs, however, have called for a nationwide ceasefire that extends to western parts of the country.

“Anyway, the fact that the Tatmadaw has declared a limited ceasefire is an improvement. But we want it to be better and we want the Tatmadaw to declare the nationwide ceasefire that we have demanded,” said U Myo Win, central committee member of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front.

The military continues to exclude Rakhine State in western Myanmar, where the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA) have been clashing fiercely, from the truce.

The military had said it was due to the threat posed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which the government has denounced as a terrorist group.

The government’s peace delegation and the four-member Northern Alliance comprising the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA), the AA and Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) had talks in Mongla on Sunday.

Government peace negotiator U Khin Zaw Oo told the media that the meeting was more productive than expected.

The two sides have for months planned for a formal meeting to discuss the signing of bilateral ceasefire agreements, but were unable to reach an agreement over the meeting venue.

Tatmadaw spokesperson Major-General Soe Naing Oo said in a press conference in June that ethnic armed groups breached the truce and clashed with government troops 61 times in the areas overseen by the five military commands from Dec. 21, 2018 to June 15 this year. Of these clashes, 19 took place between the Tatmadaw and the KIA.

There were 45 also clashes recorded among ethnic armed groups, 42 of which took place between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and joint forces of the TNLA and the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP).

The RCSS was responsible for the majority of extortion and recruitment, he said.

There were 57 reported cases of extortion—30 of them committed by the RCSS—and 71 cases of recruitment—22 of them by the RCSS—in that period, he said.

“The benefit is that there were few clashes with the Northern Command, and we could help the process of returning internally displaced persons [to their homes]. The clashes between ethnic armed groups themselves also declined during the two-month truce extension,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

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