The Myanmar Army yesterday accused rebels of attacking and killing “some” of its soldiers, the first skirmish acknowledged by the military in the wake of its ceasefire with armed ethnic groups.
The military, or Tatmadaw, last week announced that it would suspend “all military movements” in troubled northern and eastern regions for four months, a move observers called unprecedented.
Halting a simmering decades-long civil war could be a way to coax armed ethnic groups into a fractious peace process, which has been marred by continuous fighting in restive border areas.
However, the Tatmadaw said that its soldiers stationed in Shan State were on Thursday attacked by troops from the Shan State Army (SSA) — also known as the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS).
“Some Tatmadaw men were killed and some injured in the attack were sent to the military hospital ... for treatment,” Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s office said in a statement. “The Tatmadaw will strongly stand by its ... ceasefire declaration and respond in line with the law to the attacks of the SSA.”
The army also chastised local news outlets for publishing reports of skirmishes between the Tatmadaw and other armed groups, threatening “action in accordance with the law,” the military’s information team said in a statement on Thursday.
No representative from the RCSS could be reached for comment.
Even with the military’s declaration of a ceasefire, Myanmar’s border regions have been subjected to fighting between opposing armed groups.
The situation on the ground is “very complicated,” said Brigadier General Tarr Phone Kyaw, a spokesman for the Taaung National Liberation Army — one of the larger armed ethnic groups battling the military in the northeast.
While it was still battling the RCSS, Tarr Phone Kyaw said that it was honoring the ceasefire with Burmese government troops and there has been “no offensive” against them.
“We have been instructed to stay in our own area,” he told reporters.
Conflicts have been festering in border areas since independence from Britain 70 years ago, with various armed groups fighting for autonomy, identity, resources and territory.
The peace process has been the stated priority of Myanmar’s de facto leader, Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, but she has no say over security policy, as the military has retained key government posts.
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