YANGON—The Myanmar military on Tuesday extended its unilateral ceasefire in five regional commands in Kachin and Shan states for two months on Tuesday, with restive Rakhine State remaining exempt from the truce.
The Office of the Commander-in-Chief announced the extension on the last day of its original four-month truce, which started on Dec. 21. The decision came hours after peace talks ended for the day between the government and the four-member Northern Alliance comprising the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army (AA) and Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in Muse, northern Shan State on Tuesday.
Military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said the truce had been extended as peace negotiations with the four non-signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) are ongoing, and the outcome of Tuesday’s talks in Muse had been positive. He added that it would help the military achieve its goal of achieving peace by 2020.
“The ceasefire period was extended until June 30. The KIA, TNLA and MNDAA also requested the extension of the ceasefire,” he said.
The military (or Tatmadaw) began the four-month truce on Dec. 21 at its Northern Command in Kachin State, and the Northeastern, Eastern, Central Eastern and Triangle commands in Shan State, saying those EAOs that had not yet signed the NCA needed to be able to hold peace negotiations with the government.
The military excluded from the truce Rakhine State in western Myanmar, citing the threat posed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which the government has denounced as a terrorist group.
But fighting in Rakhine between the AA and the military intensified following the AA’s attacks on four border police outposts on Jan. 4. Since the truce began, some 30,000 residents of northern Rakhine State have been displaced by the fighting. Dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed, but the government puts the figure at just 12.
However, the military’s stance toward the AA has not changed, Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun said. The Tatmadaw vowed to crush the AA to end its insurgent activity, which it said targeted administrative mechanisms and security forces manning national border posts. The Tatmadaw has used both heavy artillery and air strikes against the AA.
It was agreed at the Muse talks between the government delegation, led by the vice chairman of the Peace Commission, and representatives of the KIA, TNLA, AA and MNDAA that further discussions would be held on signing bilateral ceasefire agreements, according to both sides. The participating groups will meet again in the third week of May.
Major Mai Aik Kyaw from the TNLA confirmed that discussions on bilateral agreements would begin this month. He said they agreed on the need “to reduce military tensions and to move forward to political discussions, especially in Rakhine State.” He said the Northern Alliance members viewed Tuesday’s talks as constructive.
The government delegation had already shared its position on allowing the groups to each sign a bilateral agreement or Deed of Commitment before signing the NCA with the four EAOs at talks in Kunming, China on Feb. 25. U Hla Maung Shwe, an adviser to the Peace Commission, said the EAOs also shared their responses during Tuesday’s meeting.
He said the government delegation focused its discussion on their proposals and echoed the view that the talks were “constructive” and that much progress had been made.
This is the third meeting between government and Northern Alliance negotiators this year. Officials from the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center met them in March 21 in Naypyitaw.
Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint contributed to this story.