Tatmadaw Violating Own Ceasefire, NA Members Say
By Lawi Weng & Chit Min Tun 23 July 2019
Fighting is currently ongoing in the Kokang and Ta’ang areas of northern Shan State, despite the Myanmar military’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in those areas, according to local sources.
The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) have reported almost 80 clashes with the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) during the eight months that the military’s unilateral ceasefire has been in place, with the two ethnic armed organizations (EAO) saying the Tatmadaw has violated its own ceasefire declaration.
Within that period, the TNLA has reported 59 separate clashes with the Tatmadaw, including especially fierce fighting in Kutkai Township last month.
“We still have ongoing fighting with them (the Tatmadaw) after they announced their ceasefire. There have been almost 60 battles,” Major Tar Aike Kyaw, a TNLA spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy.
Fighting has broken out in Mongton, Kutkai, Namtu, Lashio and Namsan townships, according to the TNLA.
“We fought with them 20 times in Kutkai in June. We have fought them 12 times already this month. Some battles lasted 20 to 30 minutes, but some took over one hour,” Maj. Tar Aike Kyaw said. “They announced a ceasefire in order to make their side look and sound good, but the war-time situation on the ground has not changed at all.”
The Tatmadaw first announced a ceasefire on Dec. 21, 2018 that was set to last until April 30, 2019, but then extended the ceasefire for two months, from May 1 to June 30. That extension was again extended for another two months, from July 1 to Aug. 31.
The military continues to exclude Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, from its ceasefires. Rakhine State is the current site of intense fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA)—an ally of the TNLA and the MNDAA in the Northern Alliance coalition of EAOs.
TNLA spokespersons say the Tatmadaw has continued active fighting as usual in northern Shan State despite announcing and extending unilateral ceasefires. In order to avoid fighting during the ceasefire period, they say, the TNLA has withdrawn troops whenever seeing Tatmadaw soldiers enter areas under their control. But when the Tatmadaw changed its strategy in June, Maj. Tar Aike told The Irrawaddy, moving beyond active troop movements to actively attacking his army base on most occasions, “more fighting broke out,” he said.
Tatmadaw Brigadier-General Zaw Min Htun told The Irrawaddy that he did not know how many times his troops have fought with TNLA soldiers but that his troops are involved in “normal” activity in northern Shan State related to controlling the area. He denied the Tatmadaw has launched any military operations in the region.
Brig-Gen Zaw Min Htun said EAOs should not set up new bases nor build or strengthen their armed forces during periods of ceasefires, and they should not demand taxes from local populations.
The TNLA says it last fought with the Tatmadaw on July 14 in Kutkai Township.
The MNDAA reported 17 clashes with the Tatmadaw during the eight months of announced unilateral ceasefires from the Tatmadaw, including fighting that broke out yesterday on the western bank of the Salween River. The MNDAA has said the group had attempted to not fight to honor the ongoing peace process but ultimately defended itself when the Tatmadaw violated its own ceasefire.
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