Myanmar’s military, ethnic armed groups agree to China-mediated truce

Both sides agree to cease fighting and not harm residents along Myanmar’s northern border with China.

Members of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army pose for a photo in front of a seized military outpost in Shan state. They are holding their red flag aloft
The alliance has taken control of hundreds of military outposts since it began its offensive in late October [File: The Kokang online media via AP Photo]

Myanmar’s military, which seized power in a coup nearly three years ago, has agreed to an immediate ceasefire with an alliance of ethnic armed groups whose offensive since October has emerged as the biggest threat to the regime since its power grab.

China said it had brokered the agreement.

“China hopes the relevant parties in Myanmar can conscientiously implement the agreement, exercise maximum restraint toward each other and solve the issues through dialogue and consultations,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Friday.

Both sides held talks on Wednesday and Thursday in Kunming, a Chinese provincial capital about 400km (250 miles) from the border with Myanmar, Mao said, adding that they also pledged not to harm residents at the Chinese border.

Myanmar’s military, which overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, has been battling an alliance of ethnic minority armies fighting to end its control of their regions since late October, with intense violence along the northern border with China.

The alliance, which has also allied with anti-coup fighters, has overrun hundreds of military outposts and taken control of key towns, including Laukkai.

The military confirmed it had agreed to a “temporary ceasefire”.

“We have plans to further discuss and strengthen the ceasefire agreement. We will engage in further discussions between Myanmar and China to reopen the border gates,” spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told reporters.

A leader of one of the rebel groups, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), also said that a truce had been reached, adding that the talks involved an envoy from China.

China previously announced a ceasefire in December, but the fighting in the states bordering China, as well as in western Rakhine state, continued.

Beijing is concerned about disruption to trade and a refugee influx.

In talks facilitated by Chinese envoy Deng Xi Jin, the Three Brotherhood Alliance agreed to “cease fire without advancing further,” the TNLA leader, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the talks, told the Reuters news agency.

“From the (alliance) side, the agreement is to refrain from offensive attacks on enemy camps or towns. From the military side, the agreement is not to engage in attacks through air strikes, bombardment, or heavy weapons.”

The two other groups in the alliance are the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA).

The United Nations says it fears thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting with some fleeing across the border into China.

Myanmar was plunged into crisis after the military seized power prompting mass protests and a nationwide ciivl disobedience movement. The military’s lethal crackdown sparked an armed uprising that has since grown to an unprecedented scale.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which has been monitoring the crackdown, some 4,341 civilians have been killed, and almost 20,000 held in prison for opposing the coup.

Source: News Agencies