Renewed Fighting in Shan and Rakhine as Myanmar Military Lets Ceasefire Expire
By Lawi Weng 24 September 2019
Fighting between ethnic armed groups and the Myanmar army has broken out again in Shan and Rakhine states after the military’s unilateral ceasefire expired on Sept. 21.
Ethnic armed groups including the Arakan Army (AA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) reported that their troops fought Myanmar military units on Monday and Tuesday, with some clashes lasting for hours. The fighting affected Mongkung and Kutkai townships in Shan State and at least five areas in Rakhine State.
The Myanmar army has yet to issue an official statement about the fighting but Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for the military, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the military did not extend its ceasefire because it learned that the Brotherhood Alliance of ethnic armed groups, which includes the TNLA, the AA and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), did not want peace.
Some leaders from the Brotherhood Alliance of ethnic armed groups expressed surprise that the Myanmar army did not extend the ceasefire, as all sides are supposed to meet for peace negotiations again next month in Kengtung Township in Shan State.
The Brotherhood Alliance extended its own ceasefire until the end of the year after the most recent peace talks in Kengtung on Sept. 17, in which its members voiced their intention to work towards peace negotiations with the Myanmar government.
Three battalions of the Myanmar army launched an attack on a TNLA base in the Kong Sar area of Shan State’s Kutkai Township in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The attack came just two days after the Myanmar army’s ceasefire expired.
Major Tar Aike Kyaw told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that troops with Infantry Battalions 45, 69 and 242 were based on a mountain in the Kong Sar area and launched a joint attack.
“We fought with them for many hours,” said Maj. Tar Aike Kyaw. The military launched the attack at 5 a.m. and fighting continued until 1:30 p.m., according to the major. He added that a Myanmar army artillery unit based in Kutkai helped the ground forces, firing 105 mm artillery shells from a distance.
Fighting also broke out in least five locations in Rakhine State, including Buthidaung, Minbya and Myebon townships, where AA forces temporarily seized a Myanmar army artillery base.
“After our commando forces attacked [the Myanmar military] base for three hours, our troops overran it,” read a statement from the AA issued after the violence.
The AA took guns and ammunition as well as 10 bodies of Myanmar military soldiers killed in the fighting, according to the statement, which included a photo showing the arms.
The statement claimed that fewer AA fighters were killed in the battle than Myanmar military soldiers.
The RCSS also fought with Myanmar army forces in Mongkung Township in southern Shan State on Monday according to Tai Freedom, a news outlet controlled by the RCSS.
The RCSS is an ethnic Shan armed group that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Myanmar government in 2015 and has rarely fought with the Myanmar army in recent years.
The Myanmar army reportedly entered an RCSS-controlled area and fighting broke out within about 15 minutes. According to the RCSS, the Myanmar army had not informed the RCSS liaison office as required by the ceasefire agreement.
The Irrawaddy reached out to Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun regarding the fighting in Shan and Rakhine states but he did not answer repeated requests for comment.