NCA breakdown led to Tatmadaw-RCSS clashes: ceasefire monitoring body
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.
The ceasefire’s Joint Monitoring Committee holds a press conference in Yangon on November 19.