NCA break­down led to Tat­madaw-RCSS clashes: cease­fire mon­i­tor­ing body

The Myanmar Times - - News - SHOON NAING shoonnaing@gmail.com

BREACHES of the terms of the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment (NCA) by both the Tat­madaw and the Restora­tion Coun­cil of Shan State (RCSS) caused clashes in early Oc­to­ber, the Joint Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee (JMC) has de­ter­mined, fol­low­ing an in­ves­tiga­tive field trip to the af­fected area.

The JMC team trav­elled to Namh Lang, Tong Lau and Pang Poi for a seven-day trip, dur­ing which they in­ter­viewed troops from both sides.

The JMC del­e­ga­tion sent back its find­ings on the re­cent out­break of con­flict, hold­ing a press con­fer­ence on Novem­ber 18. The JMC team noted that, at the ground level, troops from both sides did not ad­here to the NCA’s terms and con­di­tions.

“We reached one so­lu­tion in today’s meet­ing – that is, it is nec­es­sary that ground-level teams have a very good un­der­stand­ing about the NCA,” said JMC mem­ber U Maung Maung Nyein.

The clashes be­gan in Oc­to­ber af­ter the Tat­madaw ac­cused the RCSS of ab­duct­ing vil­lagers and de­tain­ing them in what the mil­i­tary said amounted to forced con­scrip­tion. A res­cue of the de­tainees from a so-called “re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre” in Namh Lang es­ca­lated ten­sions. Clashes took place in the area, which did not have clear ter­ri­to­rial de­mar­ca­tion.

Gen­eral Wunna Aung, a Tat­madaw rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the JMC, said the small-scale con­flict was a mi­nor in­frac­tion un­der the NCA.

“There was no col­lab­o­ra­tion [be­tween the two sides] and so we de­cided that was an in­frac­tion of the NCA,” he said.

The JMC did not spec­ify which side, if ei­ther, had first vi­o­lated the terms of the NCA. U Maung Maung Nyein said the clash was an ac­ci­dent.

“There were mis­un­der­stand­ings and it is not a big weak­ness. This was not an in­ten­sive ac­tion but an ac­ci­den­tal one,” he said.

Salai Yaw Aung, an RCSS rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the JMC, said one of the rea­sons for the clashes was a lack of clar­ity over de­mar­ca­tion of ter­ri­tory.

“Be­fore the NCA sign­ing, there was a bi­lat­eral agree­ment, and there are un­fin­ished things due to time re­stric­tions. The ter­ri­tory has not been de­ter­mined yet, so when the ground forces met, this kind of ac­ci­dent hap­pened,” he said.

U Maung Maung Nyein said the JMC has mech­a­nisms in place to pre­vent clashes of this kind, which he said should min­imise the risk of sim­i­lar skir­mishes tak­ing place in fu­ture.

The RCSS is one of just eight non­state armed groups to have signed the NCA with the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment in Oc­to­ber 2015. This is the first en­gage­ment of the JMC in li­ais­ing be­tween the Tat­madaw and an NCA sig­na­tory armed group.

Since the sign­ing of the NCA last year, the RCSS has en­gaged in ac­tive hos­til­i­ties not only with the Tat­madaw but also with the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (TNLA). The first breach of the NCA came dur­ing clashes be­tween the Tat­madaw and the RCSS on De­cem­ber 31 last year, in Mine Pyin/Mong Ping town­ship.

The TNLA, a non-sig­na­tory eth­nic armed group, en­gaged in hos­til­i­ties with the RCSS in Novem­ber 2015 in north­ern Shan State. The TNLA has ac­cused the RCSS of en­croach­ing on its ter­ri­tory, but the RCSS has de­nied those ac­cu­sa­tions and claimed its fight­ers have been in the area for years. Thou­sands were re­port­edly dis­placed as a re­sult of the clashes.

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

The cease­fire’s Joint Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee holds a press con­fer­ence in Yan­gon on Novem­ber 19.

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