Three ethnic armed groups fighting with Myanmar’s military in northern Rakhine state and northern Shan state have unilaterally extended a cease-fire until end of this year, according to a statement released by the alliance on Friday.
The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA), originally declared the ceasefire Sept. 9, and it was to end on Oct. 8.
In the announcement, the alliance said it was ready to strike a bilateral cease-fire agreement if the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s national army is called, was also willing.
“On our sides, we will not launch any offensive against the Burmese military. We will cease all offensives,” AA spokesman Khine Thukha told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“Because this is the time we are holding peace talks, we think it's best to stop all the fighting. That’s why we are doing what we can. We expect it is helpful to build trust between the two sides,” he added.
While Khine Thukha spoke of peace negotiations, he blamed the army for a recent eruption in fighting.
“It is very clear. The fighting has continued because the Burmese military didn’t stop its offensives.” he said.
“We, the alliance group, didn’t initiate any of the current fighting,” he said. “We were just defending ourselves after the Burmese military started the assaults on us.”
The declaration comes one day before the scheduled expiration date of the government’s own temporary unilateral cease-fire, which began on Dec. 21, 2018, and was extended three times, most recently in August.
The government’s cease-fire notably excludes war-torn Rakhine state.
Military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun declined to comment on the extension of the cease-fire.
AA rescues detained Rakhine woman
As fighting raged on in Rakhine state, the AA rescued a woman who was detained by the Myanmar Army when soldiers found explosives in her house in Taung Oo village.
The military entered Taung Oo on Wednesday, and found the handmade bombs inside her house on Thursday.
Local villagers told RFA that the woman was living in the house alone.
“Soldiers from [the military’s] 22nd division, together with village leaders, searched the house and found four handmade explosives,” said a local villager who requested anonymity for his security.
“They handed her over to the police from Tain Nyo village to file charges. Her husband was not present at the time. They said he was visiting his daughter in [Rakhine's capital] Sittwe, so they just took the wife instead,” he said.
But the group of police never made it to Tain-nyo. On their way, they were attacked by the AA.
Brigadier General Win Zaw Oo, commander of the Myanmar military's Western Regional Command, said the detained woman escaped during the attack.
“I was informed that the police detail was taking the defendant (to their station) when it was attacked on the way. As they exchanged fire, the defendant escaped,” he said.
“I learned that the woman has been used to plant explosives. We assumed only men would do that kind of work. We are now examining if she is doing it for money or other reasons,” Win Zaw Oo said.
AA spokesperson Khine Thukha said the detained woman was an ordinary civilian and that soldiers rescued her because she is a Rakhine national and as such, the AA has a responsibility to protect her.
He said the AA has never used local women to carry out attacks.
The military said that the AA attacked its temporary camps in Sintheybyin and Ooyinthar villages in Buthidaung township Thursday night.
Khine Thukha explained that the attacks were in retaliation for the government’s own attacks.
“The Burmese military has been randomly firing heavy weapons from Ooyinthar village,” he said. "It has been a week and they have been firing indiscriminately every day. [Thursday night], between 11:45 PM and 2:00 AM, we went there to fire warning shots at them.”
Meanwhile, the government has designated as fugitives more than 160 ethnic Rakhines who have ties to eight Rakhines deported from Singapore in July for alleged ties to insurgents.
The eight appeared in Yangon District Court for their hearing.
Kyaw Myo Tun, a lawyer for two of them, told RFA that the court listed the 164 as fugitives.
Among the deportees are AA commander-in-chief Tun Myat Naing’s brother Aung Myat Kyaw.
The Central Committee for Counter-Terrorism announced the names of the 164 and gave permission to arrest and charge them under Section 50(j) of the Counter-Terrorism Law and Criminal Code Section 512.
The AA’s spokesperson told RFA that the AA asked authorities to release the Singapore deportees and should not arrest the 164.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun and Kyaw Tun Naing for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Khet Mar. Written in English by Eugene Whong.