Gov’t, Northern Alliance Meet as Deadly Clashes Continue

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Representatives of the government and the four members of the Northern Alliance met in Kengtung on Saturday to discuss ways to end ongoing clashes that continue to claim civilian lives in northern Shan State.

“We proposed two points—securing travel and trade along national highways [in the conflict zone] and ending the current clashes,” said Zaw Htay, a member of the government’s peace commission.

“Their representatives said they couldn’t make a decision on this, so they will report back to their leaders and then get back to us,” he told reporters at a press conference after the meeting.

“Both parties have a responsibility to reduce clashes. It’s impossible for just one side to do it. It also depends on the Burma Army’s military position on the ground as well as their top commanders,” said Dr. Nyo Tun Aung of the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA).

As the meeting was taking place on Saturday, the AA and two other alliance members—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA)—were engaged in fighting with the Burma Army in northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township.

Five civilians were reported dead after an artillery shell fell on a house in a village just outside of the town of Kutkai. Two of the victims were children, including a five-month-old girl. Three others were injured.

The government and the four members of the Northern Alliance released a joint statement after the meeting to lay out their objectives.

“The purpose of this meeting was, first of all, to stop the present clashes. Secondly, we wanted to discuss the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement. Thirdly, after reaching a ceasefire agreement, we will talk about military re-positioning,” said Zaw Htay.

“We discussed how to move forward with peace talks. We have many new problems now because we haven’t had a meeting for so long. The objective of this meeting was to find a way to solve problems and reduce clashes,” Dr. Nyo Tun Aung said to media outlets.

According to the joint statement, the four members of the Northern Alliance, which also includes the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), will meet with representatives of the Burma Army to discuss the military re-positioning issue and matters related to military code of conduct.

According to Dr. Nyo Tun Aung, these issues were not discussed at the meeting because no Burma Army representatives were present.

“I think the meeting today went well. We got some positive results,” he added.

According to the joint statement, the participants at the meeting agreed to meet again on September 16-17 at a venue that has not yet been decided. The possibility of the four armed groups signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement once bilateral agreements have been reached will be on the agenda of future talks, the statement added.

The Northern Alliance has proposed holding the next meeting in Pangshang, the headquarters of the United Wa State Army (UWSA). The four members of the alliance also belong to the UWSA-led Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee.