As a northern Shan State city came under attack early on March 6, with a member of the self-styled Northern Alliance taking credit for the deadly assault, both the Tatmadaw and another ethnic armed organization party to the coalition this week claimed to be interested only in working for peace.
Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said during a goodwill visit to Vietnam this week that the Tatmadaw “is striving to end the armed conflicts for national peace and stability,” according to a statement posted to his Facebook page.
“The Tatmadaw really wants peace and is against war,” the statement added.
Meanwhile the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) accused the government and the Tatmadaw of running at cross-purposes, with one promoting promises of ever-elusive peace, while the other continues to mobilize troops.
“On one side, you have the government organizing peace talks and shouting about peace. It says it will invite every group to participate. But on the other hand, you have the Tatmadaw, which does not want every group at the meetings. Instead, it launches more attacks. Continuing along the lines of this strategy will lead to a situation that makes it more difficult to attain the peace in the country. The key consideration is whether the Tatmadaw truly wants peace or not,” said Major Mai Aik Kyaw, the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army’s (PSLF/TNLA) information officer.
He added that the TNLA wants peace and to avoid fighting whenever possible, but claimed that the organization has been given no choice in the face of increasing Tatmadaw aggression. The Tatmadaw pursues the ethnic troops even into the depths the forest, he said.
According to Maj Mai Aik Kyaw, the Tatmadaw has recently bolstered its troop presence in Kyaukme, Lashio, Manton, Namtu, and Namhsan townships, leading to expectations that the armed conflict will soon increase.
“We received information that the Light Infantry Division No 66 were coming here from Pyin Oo Lwin [on March 6 and 7]. They are coming with hundreds of trucks and the troops are as many as thousands strong,” Maj Mai Aik Kyaw said. “[The Tatmadaw] are again refilling their troops in the northern part of Shan State. So it can be said that the fighting will likely intensify.”
The Tatmadaw had previously deployed Light Infantry Divisions 11, 33, 55, 77 and 99 in northern Shan State, but recently two more divisions have joined the forces, LID 66 and 88, said Maj Mai Aik Kyaw.
Active fighting is ongoing in the Kokang self-administered zone, and in the Palaung self-administered zone.
At least 30 people are believed to be dead as fighting broke out between the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Tatmadaw in Laukkai, the Kokang region’s capital on Monday. The decision to carry out the attack was reportedly agreed upon by the Northern Alliance, which consists of the MNDAA, the TNLA, the Arakan Army (AA) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
In a statement responding to the Kokang offensive, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged all ethnic armed groups to “abandon” all such attacks as fruitless and detrimental to the peace process.
“At a time when we have achieved progress in the national reconciliation and peace process which has made us happy and while we are working for broader participation and for the consolidation and vibrancy of the process, the MNDAA armed groups conducted offensive attacks,” she said. “…Such armed conflicts cannot bring any good benefits and are devoid of any meaning for all the ethnic nationalities and Union citizens residing in the Union.”
The Northern Alliance and the Tatmadaw have repeatedly clashed throughout Shan and Kachin states since last November, when the coalition launched a joint operation in Muse. Around 10,500 remain displaced due to the continuing fighting, according to a recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
None of the Northern Alliance members are signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreements, and the Tatmadaw has resisted their inclusion in the peace process until active offensives cease and arms are surrendered.
Translated by Aong Jaeneh
Edited by Laignee Barron for BNI