NAYPYITAW – The Myanmar military has not extended its self-imposed truce in Kachin and Shan states, saying the ethnic armed groups in the region, particularly the three active groups against whom it has been involved in increasingly intense clashes in recent months, do not seem to be interested in signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
The comments referred to the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). The three groups have been fighting against the government and are members of the Northern Alliance, a group of non-signatories to the NCA.
The announcement came two days after the military’s unilateral ceasefire agreement ended on Saturday.
The three allied groups launched artillery attacks on a military headquarters in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township within hours of declaring their own unilateral ceasefire on Sept. 20. The Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) condemned the attack.
“The Tatmadaw is a legal institution performing state defense duties. We can’t say one thing and do another as they do. We are not an institution that can chop and change like them. We cannot tell lies. The Tatmadaw no longer plans to decalre (truce) for the sake of ending clashes and permanent peace,” military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
“Considering the [Northern Alliance] action, they don’t seem to be interested in signing the NCA [National Ceasefire Agreement],” he added.
The Tatmadaw declared a unilateral ceasefire across northeastern Myanmar in December. But Rakhine State, where it has been clashing with the AA, was not included. The Tatmadaw cited threats supposedly posed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
On April 30, the Tatmadaw extended the truce for two more months, after holding talks with ethnic armed organizations in the area. The second round of talks followed on June 30 and the Tatmadaw again extended the ceasefire for two more months.
The delegation of the Kachin Independence Army, TNLA, MNDAA and the AA and the government and Tatmadaw representatives met in Shan State’s Kengtung on Aug. 31. The Tatmadaw this time only extended its unilateral ceasefire until Sept. 21.
Prior to the talks set for Sept. 17, government spokesman U Zaw Htay stressed that the meeting was important to stop the clashes, however, the talks in Kengtung did not deliver any result except the agreement to continue talks to stop the fighting.
“You can see that there was no result, no encouraging result at all for peace,” said the military spokesman.
The three groups last week declared a truce until December this year in the hope that it would facilitate peace talks, and to take a pragmatic approach.
The TNLA said the Tatmadaw’s past decisions to extend the truce had not stopped the fighting in its areas.
“Clashes have occurred continuously in our area. Clashes never really stopped. Whether [the Tatmadaw] declares a truce or not, fighting will continue if they come and attack,” the TNLA’s Major Mai Aik Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.
“We have not yet discussed details about troop deployment. The military said they would not discuss territories, but only troop deployments,” said Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw.
Political analyst U Maung Maung Soe said troop deployment was the key to stop the fighting. “Until an agreement is reached over troop deployments, clashes will continue and suspicion and distrust will remain. These can be solved only by negotiations,” he said.
The TNLA, AA and MNDAA launched coordinated attacks on six places, including the Defense Services Technological University in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Region, on Aug. 15, in a move that they described as intended to reduce military pressure on the AA in Rakhine State. Clashes have continued since.
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