A unilateral ceasefire declared by the Tatmadaw over the weekend is being described by a prominent alliance of ethnic armed groups as a sham peace overture that does not realistically further prospects for ending armed conflict in Myanmar.
The Office of the Commander-in-Chief on May 9 raised eyebrows when it proclaimed the Tatmadaw ceasefire, which will be in force from May 10 to August 31 but notably excludes areas where “terrorist groups” hold positions. With the government having designated the Arakan Army as a terrorist group in March, Myanmar’s most volatile region likely won’t see a reprieve from armed conflict; the ethnic armed group is active across a large swath of Arakan State and parts of neighbouring Chin State.
On May 10, the Northern Alliance trio — the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army — said the Tatmadaw’s ceasefire fell short of the inclusivity needed to be taken seriously.
“The Tatmadaw should cease fire with all ethnic armed groups. The declaration means it will cease fire with some groups; on the other hand it will conduct offensive operations intensively against other groups,” said Major Mai Aik Kyaw of the TNLA.
The Tatmadaw said its ceasefire was aimed at “restoring eternal peace,” as well as honouring a request made by the UN secretary-general that armed conflict around the world be put on hold as part of global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
But political analyst U Maung Maung Soe said the ceasefire’s caveat could doom any effort to jointly combat COVID-19.
“The government’s cooperative activities with ethnic armed groups might conflict with its declaration of the AA as a terrorist group and the points included in the Tatmadaw’s ceasefire declaration,” he said.
In its statement, the Northern Alliance noted that a previous unilateral ceasefire declared by the Tatmadaw in December 2018 also excluded forces in western Myanmar, where the military has waged all-out war with the Arakan Army in the months since.
“The Myanmar Tatmadaw declared ceasefires previously. It excluded Arakan State at that time. The recent ceasefire declaration does not include the area of the AA this time,” Major Mai Aik Kyaw said.
The Northern Alliance urged the Tatmadaw to observe a truly inclusive, nationwide ceasefire in order to effectively accomplish its ostensible goals of “eternal peace” and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.