Until a dialogue begins, government peace affiliate and Shan army representatives fear episodes of fighting will continue throughout the region.
A ceasefire agreement may not end fighting, a Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) representative told S.H.A.N. on Thursday, following a clash between the Burma Army and Shan armed forces in a village one hour outside of Taunggyi which left four soldiers dead.
MPC senior advisor U Hla Maung Shwe’s comments came in response to reports of three casualties from the Burma Army Battalion 12 and one from the Shan State Army-South/Restoration Council of Shan State (SSA-S/RCSS) after fighting in southern Shan State’s Mong Pawn Township on Tuesday.
The clash occurred near Sam Bu village and was reported to have lasted over one hour. Sam Bu is 38 miles from Shan State’s capital, Taunggyi.
“No one can guarantee that there will be no fighting,” U Hla Maung Shwe said. “We are signing [a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement] in order to reduce the fighting.”
After the military confrontation on Tuesday, the SSA-S/RCSS raised concerns about the conflict being exacerbated by a combination of increased militarization in Shan State and unclear boundaries between territories held by government and non-state armed groups.
“I believe it is because we cannot avoid each other,” said RCSS spokesperson Sai Hla, of why the fight broke out with the Burma Army in Mong Pawn. “During the peace process, neither side has designated which areas are for which group.”
He also claimed that the Burma Army is reinforcing troops in ethnic areas.
“If they continue doing this, the fighting cannot be stopped,” he said.
On Wednesday, international media widely confirmed that Burmese President Thein Sein and ethnic armed group leaders now aim to sign an official and inclusive Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in mid-October—weeks after a date the government had proposed for later this month.
As November’s national legislative election nears, Aung San Suu Kyi, on a campaign visit to Hopong, southern Shan State, urged ethnic armed organizations not to rush to sign the NCA until it could be considered “long-lasting.”
“No fighting should break out again on the next day after signing the agreement,” she said in The Guardian on Monday.
U Hla Maung Shwe explained that he hoped a political dialogue would serve as an end to the country’s ongoing armed conflict. “During this time, while we are trying for a political dialogue, the fighting can happen,” he said.
According to the steps outlined in Burma’s peace process, after the signing of an official nationwide ceasefire, the framework for a political dialogue should be created and the dialogue initiated. This dialogue is intended to generate a peace agreement, which would need to be approved by the Union Parliament and, finally, implemented.