TATMADAW’S PEACE OVERTURES: Tactical military move or an offer of real olive branch?

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The statement from the Tatmadaw comes after three ethnic armed groups that had previously been frozen out of the peace process – the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA) – said following negotiations in China’s Yunnan Province on December 12 that they were willing to stop fighting and resolve conflicts through negotiation.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing of Burma : Getty Images

The concessions from both the armed groups and the military are thought to have been brokered by China, which is increasingly linking peace and stability with its economic ambitions in Myanmar.

Generally, the majority of the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) welcome the move as positive while some do it in a cautious manner and a few as the Tatmadaw’s ploy to readjust the military operational areas to better execute it to its advantage.

The TNLA spokesman Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw regarding the statement said: “We welcome the Tatmadaw’s announcement with cautious optimism. We see this as a good step. But it will still be difficult to achieve total peace, as we could see tendency to stop the offensives in some places but continue in others.”

Yet the general secretary of the Arakan National Council (ANC) said that the Tatmadaw’s announcement cannot be taken as it is giving in. He said: “When we read the three-page announcement we have quite a lot to consider. It is hard to say that the Tatmadaw is giving in. The announcement form is to implement its military objectives.”

He added: “Heavy international pressure is heaping on them (Tatmadaw) and new war fronts are emerging. Not only in the north, the west is now involved, thus having more restriction to open all war fronts at the same time. It could be taken as narrowing the boundary of military operational areas.”

But the Commander-in-Chief and the Tatmadaw need to go the extra mile to be able to make a difference.

Firstly, the ceasefire has to be nationwide and must not exclude the Chin and Arakan States, where the Tatmadaw is launching offensives against the AA.

Secondly, the ultimatum of not to be a burden to the population has to be clearly defined, as the EAOs taxing the public in any way could be taken as a breach against the law. But the existence of the EAOs is based upon the public support and in many forms including taxation. Thus there has to be a transitional arrangement for the EAOs to be able to exist as organizations before embarking on such restrictions. Otherwise the EAOs will only disintegrate as negotiation drags on.

In sum, talking to some and battling the other EAOs could not be a holistic solution to foster peace and reconciliation and prohibition of the EAOs source of income is to push for their disintegration, which can never be in order to be on a level playing field.

In a nutshell, anything short of all-inclusive nationwide ceasefire, with a longer time-frame and not just four months as the Tatmadaw now has announced, and transitional arrangement for the EAOs to exist during the negotiation period will not be able to turn the stagnated peace situation around, as the war would likely resume with vengeance at the end of four months time-frame, if solution to end the ethnic conflict war could not be found.

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