Rebels Blame Border Instability, Peace Breakdown on Myanmar Military

By Lawi Weng 29 August 2019

Border stability between China and Myanmar depends on progress toward a peace deal between the allied ethnic armed groups currently fighting the Myanmar (or Tatmadaw) in northern Shan State, according to a statement issued Thursday by the rebels.

It is the third statement the alliance of ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) has issued this week. Fighting between them and the Tatmadaw broke out 14 days ago.

The EAOs—an alliance among the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) going my the moniker the Brotherhood Alliance—have been working with China, who is trying to help as a peace negotiator.

The first statement was issued on Aug. 25 and the second on Aug. 28, both requesting that all drivers avoid conflict areas to avoid being trapped in fighting and for their general safety.

Because the military has been using civilian cars to transport soldiers and equipment, the rebels said, all civilian vehicular travel should be avoided as unnecessary risk taking.

“In the case of health or medical treatment, we strongly advise travelers to contact our ground contacts for travel assistance,” the statements said.

Targeting civilians

“We do not want civilians suffering from our fighting, so we gave them warnings,” said Brigadier General Tar Phone Kyaw, spokesperson for the TNLA. “We found that the Myanmar army used civilian cars to transport their men for reinforcements at the frontline.”

“Whenever they cannot kill us in battle, they try to target drivers who are trapped in the fighting,” he said.

The military strongly denies these claims.

Tatmadaw spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy that his forces have not used civilian cars to transport soldiers to the frontline.

“Our Tatmadaw has enough cars for transportation. We did not use civilian cars,” he said.

Ask locals if they’ve seen soldiers in civilian cars, he added.

The allied rebels also accused the Tatmadaw of posing as local militia and of using ambulances to travel in the conflict zone.

“The Tatmadaw even shoots civilians. If they find local ethnic people, they detain, torture and even murder them. We’ve found that the Tatmadaw has violated war crimes,” a rebel statement said.

“We requested that local people stay in bunkers inside their houses when they hear fighting and avoid traveling or going outside for their safety,” the statement said. “We want journalists and travelers to find out the situation in the areas they want to go to first before making the trip.”

No end in sight

Normally, rebel counteroffensives end a week after initial attacks, but no one can see an end to the current fighting.

“The Myanmar Army deployed more troops to the region and even more fighting will break out,” said Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw.

The EAOs have said that an end to the conflict will require the Tatmadaw laying down their arms in Rakhine and northern Shan states. They also asked the Tatmadaw to stop their human right abuses in ethnic areas.

The Brotherhood Alliance said in their statement on Thursday that the Tatmadaw’s decision to leave Rakhine State out of previous unilateral ceasefires they’ve declared damage the peace process, adding that the Tatmadaw could declare a nationwide ceasefire but has chosen not to.

“Our Brotherhood Alliance has it fully in mind to solve the armed conflict through political dialogue. We completely welcome the actions of China and the FPNNC [Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee], who have acted as peace negotiators,” the statement said. “We’ve worked hard [with them] to have real peace talks and to stop fighting.”

They accused the Tatmadaw of refusing to recognize China’s role in peace negotiations for areas along its border, which they say has stalled the process.

“The Tatmadaw does not want to recognize us as people they need to negotiate with. They want us to disarm. They tried to divide us. They tried to do it step by step so that we could not come to the table for peace talks,” the statement said.

The alliance a previously proposed peace deal from the Tatmadaw that demanded they go back to their original bases unacceptable.

“Because of the army draft peace proposal, the road to peace has been blocked,” said the statement.

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