The Myanmar Military (or Tatmadaw) on Friday declared a unilateral four-month ceasefire effective in active conflict areas in north and northeast Myanmar. The first truce ever initiated by the military, the unprecedented move has been hailed as a constructive gesture.
“The Tatmadaw will cease all military operations in each command from Dec. 21 to April 30” in order to allow negotiations with each ethnic armed group in the region, according to the statement issued by the Office of the Commander-in-Chief on Friday. The order covers the Northern Command in Kachin State; the Northeastern, Eastern and Central Eastern commands, and the Triangle Command in Shan State.
The military stated that during the unilateral ceasefire period, the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) would engage in peace negotiations with the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in their respective areas. Ceasefire-related issues will be on the agenda. If necessary, the negotiations will be led by the Tatmadaw’s negotiation team led by Lieutenant-General Yar Pyae.
This move comes after three members of the Northern Alliance pledged to lay down their arms and seek political resolutions to conflicts at a Dec. 12 meeting with members of the government’s Peace Commission in China’s Yunan province.
China has been brokering peace talks in the northern and northeast regions of the country, and the government conducted informal peace talks over the past five months with the Myanmar National Truth and Justice Party/Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNTJP/MNDAA), the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA).
U Min Zaw Oo, the Director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace Studies, said the “Tatmadaw’s announcement is a constructive gesture and a key step to reaching ceasefires with the northern groups. Most importantly, it opens up a path to resuming political negotiations.”
He told The Irrawaddy on Friday the Tatmadaw seemed to have been preparing for this announcement for at least five months, having noticeably reduced military engagements in the northern region.
The NRPC issued a statement welcoming the military’s move and pledging to work to bring all remaining eight EAOs that have not yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement to enter peace negotiations.
Observers viewed the move as a positive step for peace, saying the Tatmadaw had never before announce this kind of unilateral ceasefire, even under the previous government.
The Tatmadaw also backed down from its insistence on upholding its six-point policy, saying that “all EAOs need to comply with four of them: to respect the agreements, not to exploit the peace agreements, not to burden local residents and to abide by the existing laws.”
Meanwhile, the Tatmadaw said its Negotiation Team will continue talks with the 10 signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and if necessary the team will hold talks with groups individually.
However, the Tatmadaw’s truce announcement does not cover Rakhine State in western Myanmar, where it has been engaged in weeks-long clashes with the Arakan Army. Because of the fighting between the Tatmadaw and AA troops, hundreds of local residents have been forced to take shelter in nearby towns such as Ponnakyun.
The fighting in Rakhine State may continue, said U Min Zaw Oo, because the Tatmadaw doesn’t recognize the AA’s claims of authority in the area.