Three Armed Groups Make Peace Offer As Talks Continue in Rangoon

By Kyaw Kha & Moe Myint 6 August 2015

Three ethnic armed groups involved in ongoing fighting with the Burma Army in recent months have offered an olive branch to the government, as the 9th round of official talks on a nationwide ceasefire agreement continues Thursday in Rangoon.

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA), made a collective peace offer to the government on Wednesday.

“We officially make the peace offer with the view that if our three groups cease fire with the government, it would contribute to and expedite the nationwide ceasefire process and political dialogue,” Mai Phone Kyaw, TNLA general secretary, told The Irrawaddy.

The groups’ said the proposal demonstrated their genuine commitment to the ceasefire process, made on the eve of talks between the Union Peacemaking Working Committee and the ethnics’ Senior Delegation which is underway in Rangoon.

“We intend to show the people and other stakeholders that we ethnic armed groups are really desirous of peace and seriously committed to finding a political solution. [The proposal] will make it easier for the other side [the government] to consider,” said AA commander-in-chief Brig-Gen Tun Myat Naing.

Tun Myat Lin, spokesperson of the MNDAA, told The Irrawaddy that the Kokang armed group, in coordination with its allies, made the unilateral offer as it wants a nationwide ceasefire despite clashing with government troops almost daily in Laukkai in the Kokang Special Region.

He said the MNDAA had not held separate discussions with the government and that the latter had turned down a previous offer from the group to enter negotiations.

Ethnic negotiators have repeatedly stated that the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) should be inclusive of all ethnic armed groups.

The government has blocked several groups from signing the NCA, including the TNLA, MNDAA and AA and three other groups—the Lahu Democratic Union, the Wa National Organization and the Arakan National Council—it deemed do not possess armies that warrant designation as combatants.

The AA commander-in-chief said the nationwide pact would be meaningless and genuine peace would not be achieved if some ethnic armed groups were left out.

“The guns will not fall silent because among the groups the government wants to leave out are groups which are clashing [with the government],” Tun Myint Naing said.

Flood Donations

With much of Burma currently gripped by severe floods which have displaced or otherwise impacted at least 330,000 people nationwide, the three armed groups also made pledges of a different kind on Thursday.

Nyo Tun Aung, AA deputy commander-in-chief, told The Irrawaddy the armed group had donated relief materials to flood-affected areas in northern Arakan State.

TNLA’s communications officer Mai Aike Kyaw also confirmed that his group had donated 30 million kyat worth of aid through the local Sitagu Foundation. The Kokang rebel group MNDAA also made a donation of 50 million kyat to the foundation.

A Sitagu Foundation spokesperson confirmed the donations had been received.

“MNDAA soldiers and commanders donated money to the flood victims as we… know how hard it would be for them to be displaced. Our people have also experienced displacement, for different reasons,” Htun Myat Lin told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.