New clashes between armed ethnic groups and Myanmar’s army have resulted in deaths on both sides, commanders of the armed groups said Tuesday, straining the progress that has been made in the lead-up to a signing of a nationwide cease-fire accord to end decades of civil war.
Fighting in northeastern Myanmar pitting Shan and Palaung rebels against government troops from infantry units 510 and 516 in Shan state resulted in the deaths of troops from both sides in Namhsan and Yatsout townships, said Col. Sai Lai, spokesman for the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army.
“We heard that one from the government army was killed in Namhsan and one in Yatsout,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “No one from our side was killed.”
Clashes also ensued between government soldiers and Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) troops in Kyautme and Mongmit townships, said Col. Ta Phone Kyaw of the PSLF.
“The government army has been attacking us with five columns, and we have been fighting for three days," he said. "Three people from our side have injuries, and we heard that about 10 government soldiers had been killed. They have been attacking us with heavy weapons and fusillades.”
Meanwhile, fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and government troops, which broke out earlier this month in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, has forced about 200 villagers in Mansi township to flee their homes, said Naw Mine, a refugee camp official.
“Both sides have used heavy weapons,” he said. “We don’t know what will happen next with the fighting still going on. We don’t have places to stay and food to eat. It is difficult because all people fled their homes without carrying anything. We have about 200 people from 60 households here.”
An attack by the KIA on a government military convoy between Khachin and Kaunglwin villages on Sept. 7 killed a warrant officer and 15 troops, according to a report by Eleven Myanmar media group. The KIA also clashed with army soldiers on May 5-24.
About 40 percent of Myanmar citizens live in areas that routinely experience armed conflict, and roughly 650,000 have been forced to flee their homes because of the hostilities, according to information presented during a Sept. 20 meeting between the government’s Union Peace-Working Committee (UPWC) and civil society organizations, Myanmar Eleven reported.
NCA essential for peace
The clashes and casualties come as the government plans to sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with armed ethnic groups during the first week of October, paving the way for political dialogue among the participants to start in January.
They also come amid campaigning by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who vowed during a televised speech on Monday that her National League for Democracy (NLD) party would pursue peace should it win the Nov. 8 elections. She said an NCA should be based on mutual respect and trust.
“After signing the NCA, we have to [prepare] to hold political dialogue, which is essential for peace and as a foundation to build a federal union,” she said during the speech. “The government we will have after Nov. 8 election must implement this political dialogue. If people support the NLD, the party is ready to take on the responsibility to form a government.”
During another campaign speech on Tuesday in Dedaye township of Pyapon district in the Irrawaddy region, Aung San Suu Kyi urged voters not to be afraid of retaliation by officials if they vote for the NLD, as she did the day before when addressing supporters in her rural constituency of Kawhmu just outside Yangon.
“If some people or some organizations have threatened you not to vote for the NLD, it is a violation of the law,” she said. “Please think about whether to trust people who are violating the law. They do this because they have no respect for people, and it means they believe they can buy people.”
So far, the UPWC has held nine official meetings with the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents 16 of the country’s armed ethnic groups, to discuss the signing of the NCA.
Reported by Myo Zaw Ko, Khin Maung Soe, Khin Khin Ei, Kyaw Myo Min and Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Reported by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.