Talks between Myanmar rebel alliance and junta focus on Chinese interests

Unlike previous meetings, parties didn’t send top representatives, a source close to the alliance said.
By RFA Burmese
2024.05.17
Talks between Myanmar rebel alliance and junta focus on Chinese interests The military junta representatives and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Arakan Army delegations meeting in eastern Shan State’s Mongla on June 1, 2023.
Myanmar military

Representatives of a Myanmar ethnic minority insurgent alliance met junta officials for a fifth round of Chinese-brokered talks, with key issues being Chinese border trade and stability in western Myanmar, where China has big investments, a source close to the rebel alliance said on Friday. 

The insurgent groups in the Three Brotherhood Alliance made significant gains against junta forces in an offensive launched on Oct. 27, and codenamed Operation 1027 after that date, until China arranged a truce on January 11.

The two days of talks in the southern Chinese city of Kunming this week focused on fighting in Rakhine State and Chinese border trade issues, said the source from the insurgent alliance, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the negotiations.

“It is known that the fighting in Rakhine State and China’s border trade is an issue,” said the alliance member.

The alliance is made up of the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army. The Arakan Army draws its support from Rakhine State in the west while the other two groups are based in Shan State in the northeast.

Junta forces have been involved in heavy fighting against the Arakan Army in Rakhine State, where China has several major projects including a deep sea port and special economic zone at Kyaukphyu, with plans for energy pipelines from the Indian Ocean coast across Myanmar to southern China.

The fighting has stalled progress on the projects, which include a railway link. The Arakan Army has claimed control over nearly half of the state’s 17 townships, with offenses underway in those still under junta control.

The rebel alliance source did not give more details of the talks but said that none of the factions sent very senior representatives to Kunming.

A political analyst closely monitoring the talks also said neither the insurgent groups nor the junta had sent very senior officials. 

“This meeting was a strange one. The decision-making levels from the Ta’ang army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army were not included,” he said, declining to be named for fear of reprisals. “Only one, Dr Nyo Tun Aung from the Arakan Army, attended.”

Neither the junta nor any of the three members of the anti-junta alliance issued a statement on the Tuesday and Wednesday talks.

Ta’ang National Liberation Army department of foreign affairs head Col. Tar Moe Hein, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army foreign affairs department head Brig. Phone Win Naing and Arakan Army vice commander-in-chief Nyo Tun Aung attended the meeting, according to the source close to the alliance.

The junta sent Lt. Gen. Myo Thant Naing, a judge advocate general, and not the chairman of the National Solidarity and Peacemaking Negotiation Committee, Lt.Gen. Tun Tun Naing, as expected, the analyst said.

During their Operation 1027 offensive, the insurgent alliance captured 16 towns in northern Shan State. However, China’s intervention on Jan. 11 brought the alliance’s offensive progress to a halt. 

The Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic minority force from Kachin State in northern Myanmar, has been on the attack in recent weeks seizing several major positions from junta forces. 

RFA telephoned the Ta’ang National Liberation Army’s press office, but officials said they were unable to comment on the discussions. Similarly, Arakan Army spokesperson Khaing Thukha said he could not  “reveal anything about the discussions.”

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 

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