Fighting Between Armed Groups Picked Up in November: Report

By Chit Min Tun 17 December 2018

YANGON — Clashes between ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) last month outnumbered those between them and the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, according to a new report.

The Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security (MIPS) says there were 44 clashes in November — 21 between EAOs and the military, and 23 between EAOs themselves. Among the latter, 10 involved the use of improvised explosive devices.

“We found that conflict escalated between EAOs and not with the Tatmadaw,” MIPS Executive Director U Min Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy.

The clashes occurred in 20 townships in states predominantly populated by ethnic minorities. Shan State’s Namtu Township saw seven clashes. Kyaukme, Hsipaw and Kutkhaing townships, also in Shan, and Paletwa Township in Chin State saw four clashes each, while the rest saw one each.

The MIPS attributed much of the escalation to fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N). It said their fighting had also expanded the area of conflict.

“Sometimes clashes happen as a result of encounters. Sometimes one side launches an attack on the other side. Sometime the two sides fight because of problems related to natural resources. We can’t know the cause of every fight,” U Min Zaw Oo said.

While the RCSS/SSA-S is a signatory to Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government and military, the others are not.

“Clashes happened because the [SSA-N] thinks the [SSA-S] is expanding into its territory in the north [of Shan State]. No one can control that. To solve this, there is a need to make sure everyone participates in the NCA and that everyone stops military operations. And there is a need to review the NCA to solve the existing problems. And there is also a need to establish clear territories,” political analyst U Than Soe Naing told The Irrawaddy.

The MIPS attributed the clashes between the military and Arakan Army (AA) in southern Chin and northern Rakhine states to the AA’s attempts to expand its territory.

“The ultimate ambition of the AA is to establish a stronghold in Rakhine State. The AA attempted to gain a stronghold, and when the Tatmadaw attacked it, it fled, sometimes into Bangladesh. Then the fighting stopped for a while, until the AA came out again,” said U Min Zaw Oo.

“But overall, clashes between the Myanmar Army and the EAOs across the country have declined,” he added.

The AA, TNLA and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) met with the government’s Peace Commission last week and offered to halt military operations in order to enter formal peace negotiations.

During the first 11 months of 2018, March saw the most armed clashes, according to the MIPS  — 89 between the military and EAOs and three between EAOs themselves.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.