Burma

Three Myanmar Rebel Groups Halt Offensive Pending Further Talks

By Chit Min Tun 4 September 2019

YANGON—Three ethnic armed groups who have been fighting in Myanmar’s northeast—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—said they would cease their offensives in northern Shan State but would continue to defend themselves, according to a Chinese-language statement released on Sept. 2.

Mai Aik Kyaw, a spokesman for the TNLA, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the statement “was based on the Keng Tung peace talks [held on Aug. 31]. We will stop the offensives, because we want to see an end to the civil war and see peace building in the whole country through political dialogue. But we will maintain our defensive activities.”

A Burmese-language version of the statement was released on Wednesday afternoon. It said the groups aim to facilitate national reconciliation and the peace process, and to completely resolve the country’s long-running armed conflicts through political dialogue.

He said, “We urge the government and all the EAOs involved in the negotiations to join us in a thorough discussion of the [proposed] bilateral ceasefire agreements before they are signed. While the preparations are being made for signing bilateral ceasefire agreements, we, the three members of the Brotherhood Alliance, will try our best to implement peace.”

Ethnic affairs analyst U Than Soe Naing said the statement is a positive result of the Aug. 31 Keng Tung talks. But he added that it is not a ceasefire announcement, merely a commitment to reduce military tensions.

U Than Soe Naing told The Irrawaddy  “We hear seven vehicles and trucks were burned in Kutkai last night. So we cannot take the Sept. 2 statement seriously. What’s important is whether they can sign bilateral agreements on Sept. 16 and whether they will hold negotiations with the Tatmadaw. If the talks are not successful, the fighting will be severe in the region. So we will wait and see [what happens] beyond Sept. 21.”

The attacks on trucks transporting goods along the Muse-Kutkai Road, a day after the statement was released, have left locals mistrustful of the announcement from the Brotherhood Alliance, as the three groups call themselves.

U Tin Tun, a driver transporting goods on the Mandalay-Muse Road said, “About 10 vehicles were burnt in Namkut, between Kutkai and Nam Phat Kar, last night [Tuesday] at about 8 pm. We don’t trust them.”

“If they make peace, we wish they would do it sooner, because we are suffering from [the violence]. They do not put their words into action. They say on one side that they will make a ceasefire and build peace for people’s sake; meanwhile they are shooting at us and burning vehicles.”

The Brotherhood Alliance attacked government and military targets on Aug. 15, including the Military’s Defense Services Technological Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay region, as well as tollgates, anti-narcotics checkpoints and a police station in Naung Cho Township, Shan State.

The fighting continued Wednesday in Shan State’s Kutkai, Lashio and along the Mandalay-Muse Road in Shan State.

The three groups and their Northern Alliance partner the Kachin Independence Army held talks with government peace negotiators in Keng Tung last Saturday, on Aug. 31, and agreed to meet again on Sept. 16-17. They agreed to hold further talks with the military, or Tatmadaw, on ending clashes and establishing a code of conduct for troop deployments. Following the Keng Tung talks, the military extended its unilateral ceasefire in the region for three more weeks, until Sept. 21.

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