Myanmar’s military declares 3-month ceasefire, with exceptions
Yangon, Myanmar, May 10 (efe-epa).- Myanmar’s military on Sunday began a ceasefire for more than three months, however it will not cover areas where ethnic rebels the government considers terrorist groups are based.
Among the exceptions are Arakan Army (AA) rebels, which mainly operate in the states of Rakhine (west) and Chin (northwest), the conflict with which has intensified since January.
The unilateral ceasefire declared by the Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, was announced on Saturday night and will remain in effect until Aug. 31.
According to the military command, the ceasefire is enforced with an objective to focus on the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic.
The Tatmadaw, which has been accused of having committed multiple crimes against humanity, did not explain in its statement the reasons why it will continue fighting in certain areas and threatened to break the truce in others if attacked.
On Mar. 23, the government designated the AA as a terrorist organization, while only one other rebel group of the dozens operating in the country is currently classified as such – the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), whose attacks in August 2017 sparked a brutal military campaign against the Rohingya minority.
The conflict with the AA, which began in 2009 with the aim to achieve greater autonomy for its territory, resumed in November 2018, leading to the displacement of 150,000 and hundreds of deaths.
“It’s really hard to collaborate with the government as the Myanmar Army is escalating its confrontation in northern Rakhine state,” AA spokesperson Khine Thukha told EFE.
The AA and its allies announced their own ceasefire in March through to the end of May, although clashes have continued.
A UN official based in the conflict zone and who asked to remain anonymous told EFE last month that the Tatmadaw was resorting to “more brutal means” out of the frustration of losing ground to the AA.
In recent months, bombings allegedly carried out by military against civilians in Rakhine have been reported.
“The Tatmadaw seems to see COVID 19 as an opportunity to commit more abuses while the world is distracted,” the UN official said.
Myanmar began its transition to democracy in 2011 after nearly half a century under military rule.
In 2015, the party led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won the elections with the promise of achieving national peace and initiating a reconciliation process, among other things.
However, the military reserves constitutional prerogatives which give it control of ministries such as defense, interior, and border affairs, along with 25 percent of parliamentary seats, which provides it considerable sway in the house to veto any amendments to the constitution.
Despite peace efforts, more than a dozen armed conflicts – some more than four decades old – remain active between the military and ethnic rebels, which seek greater autonomy from Naypyitaw. EFE-EPA