Myanmar Military Breaks China-Brokered Ceasefire, Resistance Groups Say

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Myanmar Military Breaks China-Brokered Ceasefire, Resistance Groups Say

The collapse of the agreement brokered in Kunming on Friday demonstrates the limits of Chinese influence in northern Myanmar.

Myanmar Military Breaks China-Brokered Ceasefire, Resistance Groups Say
Credit: Depositphotos

A ceasefire between Myanmar’s military administration and an alliance of resistance groups has reportedly collapsed less than 24 hours after it was agreed during China-brokered talks.

On Saturday, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), one of the members of the Three Brotherhood Alliance, claimed that the military junta had broken the ceasefire by launching artillery attacks in northern Shan State, The Irrawaddy reported. The TNLA said that 19 artillery strikes were reported in three northern Shan State townships and neighboring Mogoke Township in Mandalay Region on Friday.

The breaches of the ceasefire were confirmed the same day by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), another member of the Alliance.

This was just a day after the ceasefire was agreed by the military administration and the Three Brotherhood Alliance, which includes TNLA, the MNDAA, and the Arakan Army (AA), during China-brokered talks in Kunming.

An anonymous leader of TNLA told Reuters on Friday that the Alliance and the military had agreed to a “ceasefire without advancing further.”

“From the (alliance) side, the agreement is to refrain from offensive attacks on enemy camps or towns,” the TNLA source was quoted as saying. “From the military side, the agreement is not to engage in attacks through airstrikes, bombardment, or heavy weapons.”

The ceasefire was brokered in the third round of China-brokered talks that have taken place since the Alliance launched Operation 1027, an offensive that has seen its forces overrun junta positions across Shan State. Beijing’s aim has been to end the fighting along its border with Shan State, which has brought the official border trade to a halt and displaced tens of thousands of people in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a media briefing in Beijing on Friday that a ceasefire and peace talks serve the interests of all parties and boost peace along the border. “China stands ready to continue to provide support and assistance to the best of our capability and play a constructive role,” she said.

The ceasefire came shortly after the MNDAA retook control of the Kokang Self-Administered Zone in northern Shan State, after the surrender of the Myanmar military’s Regional Operations Command in Laukkai, Kokang’s capital. The MNDAA ruled Kokang prior to 2009, when it was driven out by the Myanmar military, and its recapture was a major goal of Operation 1027.

The rapid collapse of the ceasefire suggests that it never had much buy-in from the groups that negotiated it. It is clear that China is eager to bring the fighting to an end and to establish a new patchwork of ad hoc political arrangements that will allow for the resumption of trade and progress, however halting, on China-backed infrastructure projects.

The second round of talks in mid-December also resulted in a ceasefire agreement that quickly broke down.

The collapse of the latest ceasefire demonstrates the limitations of Chinese power in Myanmar. While Beijing has deep relations with the Myanmar military and the various armed groups in northern Shan State, which it is able to use to bring them to the table, it cannot force them to come to a political resolution.

Also this weekend, the Arakan Army announced the seizure of Paletwa township in Chin State in western Myanmar, notching another major victory over the military administration. Yesterday, the AA’s social media channels posted photos of its personnel standing in front of local government buildings in Paletwa. Conflict resumed in Rakhine State and the adjoining section of southern Chin State on November 13, and has since seen the AA make substantial gains. On January 2, the AA said that only a few military bases were remaining in Paletwa, and that it would “annihilate them within this week.”