Not a Hair on Their Heads Will Be Harmed: Tatmadaw

By Htet Naing Zaw 27 May 2019

Naypyitaw—The Myanmary military, or Tatmadaw, has issued a guarantee for the safety of Arakan Army (AA) leaders who meet with government officials for peace talks in government-controlled areas, including the administrative capital of Naypyitaw.

The government and the Northern Alliance—the military bloc encompassing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang National Liberation (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the AA—have agreed to meet to discuss signing bilateral ceasefire agreements, but the two sides have yet to reach agreement on a potential venue for the meeting, Director-General of the President’s Office U Zaw Htay told reporters on Friday, with the AA voicing concerns over their security.

“Particularly, the AA is concerned. It said it is concerned about the security of its leaders because of the ongoing clashes, so we asked the military leaders, and the Tatmadaw said they [will] guarantee their safety, and that not a hair on their heads will be harmed,” U Zaw Htay said.

But military Spokesperson Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun called the AA concerns an unreasonable excuse, since no security problems have ever occurred when delegations of ethnic armed groups have met for peace talks in the past, in Naypyitaw or elsewhere.

“This is an excuse. We have held peace talks not only with them, but with our bitter enemy the CPB (Communist Party of Burma). They came for peace talks anywhere, including Yangon. Nothing happened to them. There was no security break in the history,” he told The Irrawaddy.

AA Spokesperson U Khaing Thukha said the security concerns are shared among all members of the Northern Alliance.

“Not just us, other members are also concerned about coming to Naypyitaw. It would be better if the venue is acceptable to both sides,” U Khaing Thukha said. “The military is launching [a] fierce offensive, and its policy is to crush us, so we have concerns,” he added.

The Northern Alliance proposed holding peace talks in either Panghsang, which is under the control of the United Wa State Army (UWSA); Kunming, in China; or in Muse, at the Myanmar-China border. The government suggested Naypyitaw, Yangon, Myitkyina and Lashio as potential venues. Negotiations stalled there.

According to the government, after the Chinese embassy stepped in to mediate, three of the Northern Alliance groups agreed to hold the peace talks anywhere.

On April 30, delegates of the Northern Alliance and the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center met in Muse, northern Shan State, to discuss signing bilateral ceasefire agreements. At the meeting, the Northern Alliance presented their proposed draft of a ceasefire and the two sides agreed to meet again this month for further discussions.

The military extended a unilateral ceasefire on April 30, but again excluded Rakhine State, home of the AA.

If the military has a genuine desire for peace, the AA said, it must stop fighting before discussing political problems.