UPDATED at 12:28 P.M. ET on 2019-09-18
Myanmar government peace negotiators and the Northern Alliance group of ethnic armies on Tuesday did not reach an agreement on a bilateral cease-fire to end hostilities between the rebel forces and national military in northeast and western Myanmar, though they decided to meet again for further discussions, spokesmen for the parties said.
Myanmar military representatives also participated in the meeting with representatives from the four Northern Alliance groups — the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) — in the eastern Shan state town of Kengtung.
Armed conflict has raged for most of this year between three of the rebel armies and government army in Myanmar’s northern Shan state and between the AA and national soldiers in Rakhine state, leaving scores of civilians and soldiers dead and displacing thousands of local residents.
Zaw Htay, director general of the President’s Office, told a news conference that government negotiators and the Northern Alliance agreed to seven points of a draft bilateral cease-fire, including the holding of further talks, the establishment of liaison offices to prevent further fighting, and the return of displaced civilians.
He called the talks with the rebel armies positive because they aimed to build trust between the parties, though they yielded no cease-fire agreement.
“We had expected to sign [a deal], but they didn’t have a mandate to sign it,” Zaw Htay said.
The Northern Alliance has a month-long temporary truce in effect through Oct. 8, while a unilateral cease-fire by the Myanmar military expires on Sept. 21.
“The Tatmataw’s [Myanmar military’s] cease-fire is going to expire on Sept. 21 before a cease-fire deal could be signed,” Zaw Htay said. “It could be problematic if we can’t sign one before the deadline, because we won’t know what to do with the results of this meeting.”
“So we negotiated, and what we finally agreed on is to resolve the conflict and how to address it if problems arise,” he said.
Brigadier General Tar Phone Kyaw of the TNLA, who attended the meeting, said the cessation of fighting was a difficult topic of discussion, and the parties could not reach a concrete agreement.
He also said that no agreement was reached on who would act as a mediator or the details for a cease-fire accord.
The meeting lasted from 10 a.m. until the evening, with the Myanmar military and the Northern Alliance holding at least two special meetings, sources at the talks said.
A Chinese negotiation team led by Yunnan province’s anti-narcotics chief Guo Bao was also seen consulting members of the Northern Alliance, they said.
China has been pushing for ethnic armed groups to meet with peace negotiators and agree to a bilateral cease-fire with the Myanmar military to end recent attacks that have disrupted trade and increased instability in the border region.
The meeting outcome was put on record, and all parties agreed to hold another round of talks in October, source at the talks said.
The Myanmar army and AA clashed in Rakhine state’s Minbya township on Monday — the eve of the peace talks — with government forces using helicopters to bomb Arakan troops, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported, citing AA spokesman Khine Thukha.
Reported by Kan Thar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Nandar Chann. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.