The Myanmar Military (or Tatmadaw), on Friday warned ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) operating in regions overseen by five of its military commands to cease trying to expand their areas of operation no later than Feb. 12, and to urgently begin peace talks with either the government or the Tatmadaw negotiation team.
It claimed the EAOs are destabilizing the regions by fighting each other, as well as ambushing Tatmadaw troops.
The Myanmar military declared a four-month truce in the areas from Dec. 21, 2018 to April 30 this year, citing the need to negotiate ceasefire-related issues. The military stated that during the unilateral ceasefire period, the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) would engage in peace negotiations with the EAOs in their respective areas: the Northern Command in Kachin State; the Northeastern, Eastern and Central Eastern commands; and the Triangle Command in Shan State. If necessary, it said, the negotiations would be made with the Tatmadaw’s negotiation team led by Lieutenant-General Yar Pyae.
The Tatmadaw’s warning statement on Friday said, “while the EAOs should be putting their efforts into peace negotiations during the truce, they have focused on building up strength, recruitment and boundary expansions.” These actions, the Tatmadaw said, “put a burden on the livelihoods of the local residents, increase the number of war-displaced, impact on road transportation security and finally affect the peace process which the people long for.”
In a roughly one-month period from Dec. 21, 2018 to Jan. 24, 2019, there have been 13 instances of interethnic fighting between the EAOs in the regions, namely between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS)/Shan State Army South (RCSS/SSAS) and the combined forces of the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA) and Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army North (SSPP/SSAN); and between the RCSS/SSAS and Pa-Oh National Liberation Organization (PNLO).
The Tatmadaw accused the EAOs of operating outside of their own boundaries 168 times; extorting money from civilians 10 times; recruiting people 20 times; ambushing Tatmadaw troops 10 times; and conducting anti-vehicle mine attacks twice.
It specifically warned the RCSS to follow the boundary set under the Union-level ceasefire agreement signed on May 19, 2012 in Keng Tong, Shan State, and the SSPP to follow the boundary set during the meeting on Dec. 15, 2015 in Naypyitaw.
The Tatmadaw urged three groups—the TNLA, AA and MNDAA—in northern Shan State to specifically follow their statement made on Dec. 12 to give up armed struggle, and two NCA signatories—the KNU and KNLA (PC) in Karen State—to follow their agreements.
This month, KNU troops and the Tatmadaw engaged in clashes again over the Tatmadaw’s attempt to upgrade roads in the KNU-Brigade 5 area.
In addition, the Tatmadaw said KNU forces extorted money from locals in the Southeast Command and Coastal Command areas and ambushed and conducted anti-vehicle mine attacks against Tatmadaw troops in the Southern Command, which is close to the KNU Brigade 5 area.
When the Tatmadaw held a press conference on Jan. 18, it did not mention the KNU’s activities, which are outside of the five Commands under the truce.
Despite these warnings, ethnic and political affairs analyst U Maung Maung Soe expected that “The four-month truce will last until it ends, but a few clashes might occur during that time.”
He suggested that the northeast region would see stability when the groups stopped trying to expand their boundaries.