Myanmar’s junta calls for ceasefire with ethnic armed groups, omits anti-coup militias – Radio Free Asia
Myanmar’s junta has announced a goodwill ceasefire with all ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), but observers say the move is part of an attempt to take pressure off the military, which is facing multiple internal conflicts, and its efforts on the Extermination of the People’s Defense Forces militias (PDF).
In a statement released late Monday, the junta’s commander in chief of the armed forces announced a unilateral, five-month ceasefire from October 1 through February 2022.
According to a statement, the ceasefire was introduced as a “gesture of goodwill” to welcome the 75NS Anniversary of Myanmar’s Union Day on February 12th, when the Panglong Agreement was signed in 1947 and Myanmar became a united country, and to “promote the prevention and control of the coronavirus pandemic”.
During the ceasefire, the military will suspend all operations other than countermeasures and administrative work, it said.
The announcement was immediately viewed with suspicion by analysts, as well as PDF groups and EAOs, who said it was aimed at easing tensions between the military and ethnic armies and focusing troop efforts on crushing the militias that oppose their rule .
Myanmar’s military tried to justify its overthrow of the democratically elected government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) on February 1 by claiming that the party stole the country’s November 2020 ballot paper through electoral fraud.
The junta has yet to prove its claims and has forcibly suppressed anti-coup protests, killing at least 1,139 people and arresting 6,891 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
On September 7, the shadow government of National Unity (NUG) declared a state of emergency and called for an open rebellion against the junta rule.
Many EAOs have been fighting the Myanmar military for more than 70 years since the country gained independence in 1948. After this year’s coup, several groups have sided with the resistance fighters against the junta, while others have joined forces with local PDF branches to fight the military.
Only 10 EAOs have signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government since 2015, when the document was inked in the presence of international observers and Myanmar’s highest legislature.
The ten groups suggested in June that the deal stand, despite a stalled peace process that was all but destroyed by the unpopular junta’s coup. However, they say they will not hold talks with the military, which they believe has stolen power from the country’s democratically elected government.
“Dialogue instead of conflict”
On Tuesday, Thein Tun Oo, executive director of the pro-military Thaninga Institute of Strategic Studies, a group of former military officers, said the junta had paved the way for dialogue because it wanted peace.
“The military … has become more inclined to engage in dialogue rather than armed conflict and is always open to opportunity,” he said.
âThere are different types of armed ethnic groups – some are signatories to the NCA, some are not. If lasting peace is the goal, every group needs to be involved in the process. It shows that there is still a place for those who want peace. “
Thein Tun Oo added that suspending the conflict with the EAOs could allow the military to better understand the international perspective on developments in Myanmar.
The military’s statement on Monday referred to a meeting earlier this month between ASEAN’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Special Envoy Erywan Yusof and Myanmar’s military-appointed Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, at which the former proposed a ceasefire and the military proposed it accepted.
Erywan Yusof, Brunei’s second foreign minister, was appointed special envoy for Myanmar in early August, months after ASEAN leaders agreed to a “five-point consensus” that the junta should end violence in the country and engage in dialogue for a peaceful one Find solutions to respond to the country’s political crisis and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. However, the junta has taken few steps to implement the measures.
On Tuesday, Thein Tun Oo said the military would continue cracking down on the PDF, which the junta declared a terrorist organization, warning that AEOs would inevitably face pressure from the military if they teamed up with the PDF.
Call for a detailed plan
Representatives from AEO and PDF groups told RFA that they view the military’s announcement as deceptive and largely selfish.
Colonel Naw Bu, spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), told RFA that the military was “facing a crisis” which it would like to resolve through the ceasefire.
“I think they have set a deadline of five months to complete the nationwide military operation of the PDFs,” he said.
âI don’t think this is going to be one [full] Armistice and lasting peace. “
He said that once the military committed to ending the conflict, it should issue a detailed plan to suspend all operations across the country.
A spokesman for the Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF) said on condition of anonymity that the military was trying to split the opposition with its announcement.
“What we see here is that the military is doing its usual,” he said. “It sows discord among the existing forces.”
âThis has been their way of negotiating ceasefires with some ethnic armed groups in the past. But now she’s offering negotiations with the EAOs with one hand and working with the other to wipe out the newly formed resistance groups. “
The KNDF was established after the coup in the state of Kayah and serves as a local defense force affiliated with the NUG.
No national armistice
The military has announced around 20 ceasefires with EAOs since December 2018, but regularly excludes groups with whom it is involved in serious conflicts, such as the Arakan Army in Rakhine State and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance (MNDAA) Army in northern Shan State.
Political scientist Maung Maung Soe said the recent ceasefire was “ineffective” as PDF groups were not included.
“Such ceasefire announcements in the past have left out certain groups … and therefore a ceasefire has never been reached at the national level,” he said.
“Because you have declared the PDF as a terrorist group, the chance of a real ceasefire is very slim.”
Reported by the Myanmar Service of RFA. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.