Less than a month after fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State was informally put on hold, representatives from both sides met in person in the Wa Self-Administered Zone’s capital, Panghsang, near the Chinese border in northern Shan State on Wednesday to discuss a possible bilateral ceasefire.
AA spokesman Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the meeting took place for an hour and was centered on “peace and election affairs and to ensure the bilateral ceasefire,” without disclosing further details.
Last month, Japan’s special envoy to Myanmar, Yohei Sasakawa, helped to secure an agreement between the two sides to suspend fighting. Prior to that, the warring parties had fought intensely over the past two years in northern Rakhine State and Chin State’s Paletwa Township, displacing more than 230,000 people since November 2018.
The AA on Nov. 12 called on the Myanmar military and government to hold elections before Dec. 31 in nine northern Rakhine townships where voting in the Nov. 8 general election was canceled for security reasons. It said in a statement that voters in the affected areas had lost their rights. Within hours of the statement being issued, Myanmar’s military welcomed the AA’s request, paving the way for bilateral meetings.
Wednesday’s talks were joined by the AA’s deputy chief, Dr. Nyo Twan Aung, and the Myanmar military’s Security Affairs deputy chief officer, Major General Toe Yi.
Prior to the in-person meeting, the two sides held an online discussion on Nov. 25. That discussion focused on facilitating security to enable the transport of food and medical supplies to villages that have been isolated by clashes, holding elections where voting was canceled and maintaining the mutual understanding the two sides have achieved so far.
According to sources close to the negotiations, further talks are expected to be held this month between the AA and the military’s new Peace Negotiation Committee. Led by Lieutenant General Yar Pyae, the committee was formed to kickstart peace talks with ethnic armed organizations, regardless of whether they have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, to achieve lasting peace.
Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint and Nyein Nyein contributed to this report.
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