Parliament Rejects Lawmaker’s Pleas for Action to De-Escalate Fighting

By Kyaw Myo 7 September 2018

YANGON—Proposals that the Union Parliament and Lower House take urgent steps to de-escalate fighting in ethnic regions in order to protect civilians were rejected for debate, said Nan Kham Aye, a Lower House lawmaker representing Shan State’s Namtu Township who submitted the motions.

The lawmaker on Wednesday put forward a proposal to the Lower House urging the Union government to de-escalate armed conflict, drawing attention to the plight of civilians caught up in ongoing clashes in Namtu Township.

“[The office of the Lower House] said that the proposal is against parliamentary rules because [de-escalation of armed conflicts] is not something that Parliament can do,” Nan Kham Aye said.

A similar urgent proposal she submitted to the Union Parliament on Tuesday was also rejected. In that motion Nan Kham Aye urged the Union government to hold negotiations with all armed ethnic groups, including both signatories and non-signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), to end armed conflicts.

Fresh clashes broke out in the township on Aug. 30 between the Shan State Army-South (the armed wing of the Restoration Council of Shan State) and troops of the Northern Alliance. The clashes have displaced over 2,000 villagers since then, according to local residents.

The Northern Alliance bloc of four armed ethnic groups comprises the Kachin Independence Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army.

The latest clashes followed earlier fighting between Myanmar’s military (also known as the Tatmadaw) and Northern Alliance troops in Namtu Township, she said.

“Clashes have been going on for a long time, and have become fierce now. Who will come and take care of local people when clashes break out? No one,” Nan Kham Aye said.

“People have to flee by themselves and take shelter at monasteries or rely on their relatives. Local residents are very vulnerable right now,” she added.

The government is working on the peace process, but its representatives have not been able to see conditions on the ground, so it does not understand the basic needs of the people, she said, referring to the fact that public consultations have yet to be held in the areas controlled by some of the ethnic NCA signatories. The consultations are a required step before national-level political dialogues can be held.

“I submitted the proposals in response to the demands of the people, and I am sad that they were rejected,” the lawmaker said.

Cultivation season has arrived, but locals have not been able to grow any crops, as they have had to flee the fighting, said Sai Yan Pyae, a resident of Man San village in Namtu Township.

“If they can’t grow in the rainy season, they will not have sufficient food until next year. They might have to find other jobs and may fall into debt,” he said.

“We were not injured, but our houses were damaged,” said a resident of Nam Pon village who fled to Man San following renewed clashes on Aug. 30.

“As we are taking shelter at a monastery now, so we don’t have to worry about food. We don’t want to see any more clashes. We just want to go back to our village and live a normal life,” he said.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are currently receiving food from donors, but could face a shortage in the long term, local residents said.