Shan State Peace Talks Fall Apart

By Lawi Weng 2 December 2016

RANGOON — Scheduled peace talks fell apart on Thursday, and conflict continued between four ethnic armed groups and the Burma Army in northern Shan State, according to ethnic armed group leaders.

Representatives of the Northern Alliance had planned to discuss a possible end to the two-week-old conflict in Kunming, China, where they had traveled to meet officials from Burma’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC). But the talks never happened because the opposing sides could not agree on the basic format of the meeting, according to ethnic armed group leaders.

One Northern Alliance negotiator, Col Tar Phone Kyaw of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), traveled to Kunming. But his meeting fell apart.

“On our side, we wanted to meet the NRPC as one group, with all the members of our Northern Alliance armed forces,” Col Tar Phone Kyaw told The Irrawaddy Friday morning. “But they disagreed, and they only wanted to meet one by one with each group.”

Since Nov. 20, a coalition of four ethnic armed groups, dubbed the Northern Alliance, has carried out a military offensive against the Burma Army in northern Shan State.  The ethnic armed groups include the TNLA, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). The State Counselor’s Office has reported 14 people killed and 50 wounded in attacks by ethnic armed groups since the start of the conflict.

Burma’s NRPC approached the Chinese Foreign Ministry some days ago to arrange the peace talks, and then the Chinese Foreign Ministry passed an invitation to Northern Alliance leaders to visit Kunming, the capital of China’s southwestern Yunnan Province.

“Now let’s go back to our territory and launch this war again,” said Col Tar Phone Kyaw, after the talks failed to materialize.

He added that the Burma Army must stop conducting military offensives in ethnic areas if it wishes for nationwide peace.

“We need to meet in order to end the conflict,” said Col Tar Phone Kyaw. “We could resolve the conflict if we had the right dialogue.”

Dr. Tin Myo Win, leader of the Burmese government’s NRPC delegation, also met with the Chinese foreign minister in Kunming to discuss the Shan State conflict that has at times spilled across the Burma-China border. Since his arrival on Nov. 26, Dr. Tin Myo Win held a number of talks, including with representatives of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), said Col Tar Phone Kyaw.

As peace talks foundered, fighting broke out on Thursday in the border town Mong Ko, in Muse Township. Three civilians were wounded in the fighting, the Northern Alliance armed forces reported.

The Burma Air Force conducted attacks against ethnic armed groups in the Mong Ko area as well. The Ministry of Defense argued that these Air Force attacks were justified because the Northern Alliance soldiers had tried to capture several Burma Army positions, according to a defense ministry post on Facebook.

The statement added that the Burma Army adheres to a military code of conduct that is based on international standards. The defense ministry used the word “insurgents” in its description of the joint ethnic armed group forces.