As the Special Envoy for Asian Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Sun Guoxiang, on August 21, summoned the three brotherhood ethnic armed group, the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), to Kunming in Yunan province and dressed them down for their attacks on government’s security targets in Pyin Oo Lwin and Nawngkhio townships, it became clear that China doesn’t have the slightest idea of the plan and is furious for disrupting its China-Myanmar Economic Corridor linked to the mega project Belt and Road Initiative.
According to Shan sources the six-point demand made by the Chinese diplomat, who is accompanied by Yunan police chief is as follows:
- China strongly condemned the military undertaking of the three alliance ethnic armed groups.
- During the Myanmar army’s unilateral ceasefire of two months they should not take the opportunity to launch military attack.
- China demands that the northern alliance not to open another military front.
- Demands that the three northern alliance issue statement of ending military undertaking.
- If the three northern alliance don’t follow the above mentioned, China will take actions accordingly; [China will also convinced Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing (to end the conflict)].
- China will try its utmost to prevent so that no erupted along the Chinese border.
Regarding the issue, Brigadier General Tar Bone Kyaw of the TNLA told on August 21 said: “Chinese Special Envoy Sun Guoxiang, accompanied by the police chief of Yunnan [province in China], met with us [the three groups]. They said they do not accept our fighting. They do not like it and told us to stop it, whatever it takes. It is like they are pressuring us,” according to The Irrawaddy.
The Chinese concern and pressure seems to be bearing fruits, even though the complete ending of military actions in northern Shan state’s military theatre cannot be realized immediately as the Tatmadaw’s retaliation offensive is in the making and ongoing.
Recently, on August 22, news came up that two hidden self-made bombs were found under Namsewar bridge on the road from Lashio to Namtu, which the Tatmadaw said was placed by the TNLA. The TNLA rejected it with the statement saying that it was Tatmadaw’s propaganda to tarnish its image and not its handiwork. The peculiar thing is that the Burmese version statement is accompanied by a Chinese version, which the TNLA desperately like to clarify that it is toeing the line prescribed by China.
Dr M Kawn La, chairman of the Kachin National Congress said the general assumption that recent conflict happened because of China was not correct but the because of the three alliance party is keen to widen its political influence.
He said: “In competition to out do one another, the four-member Northern Alliance – Burma (NA-B) is trying to widen its ceasefire negotiation (bargaining) stance through military means. It seems to be planning to negotiate from the position of military strength.”
The NA-B is made up of AA, MNDAA, TNLA and Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA, however, is not involved in the attacks in Pyin Oo Lwin and Nawngkhio townships.
He added: “Their decision-making looks like to control the Myanmar’s weak point of main border trading route when the majority of the Tatmadaw’s strength are engaged in Arakan war front. Their strategic move is to control the border trade route and bargain for higher (bilateral ceasefire) agreement,” according to the recent VOA report.
Concerning the Kunming meeting Zaw Htay, presidential office director and spokesman said that he didn’t know the outcome but appreciates China’s role as a peace broker.
He told the media: “We tell the Chinese what we like to relay and likewise the Ethnic Armed Organizations’ side also do the same. But the real negotiation is between our own citizens. The Chinese may help to facilitate meeting place and accommodation but they won’t participate in negotiation, only our own ingenious people.”
Brigadier General Tar Bone Kyaw told Sun Guoxiang that the NA-B preconditions are that the
Tatmadaw stops its military operations in the Arakan state, Kokang and Palaung ethnic regions, stops committing war crimes in all ethnic areas, and the government must broker meaningful ceasefire talks.
He said: “ We can meet if it happens now, but there is a problem with the venue. The Tatmadaw wants us to come to Naypyitaw or Lashio. We told them that we could not, as the fighting is ongoing. We want to meet them either in Wa or Mongla area.”
Latest report on August 22 said that the government is proposing Kengtung as a venue for bilateral ceasefire negotiation. But the NA-B still hasn’t say anything on the proposal.
Reportedly, China’s People’s Liberation Army has been conducting military patrol at the border town Jiegao across Muse with some 50 trucks and military equipment on August 21. Chinese locals said the authorities might be taking precaution that the fighting does not spill over into China, like it used to be whenever armed conflict occurred like in the past.
Regardless of the Chinese pressure, the war in northern Shan state is escalating, with fighting raging in Kutkai and Namkham in several places, as of this writing.
The Tatmadaw is in a retaliation mood to remedy its helplessness regarding the attacks on one of its prestiges DSA facilities in Pyin Oo Lwin, including security outposts, in Nawngkhio township.
Speaking at the military’s recent press conference, the chairman of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team, Major-General Soe Naing Oo, said, “To put it bluntly regarding those groups: Will they come to peace talks? The Tatmadaw welcomes them. Do they want to continue fighting? We are ready,” reported The Irrawaddy.
The Tatmadaw is in full swing with the retaliation and the Chinese may not be able to demand that it stops the offensives, as it is its more of a customer than a proxy. Thus, it is now likely that a limited beating of the three ethnic alliance army for a few weeks or so will be allowed to go on if not for months, but not to the point of refugees fleeing into China, when its patience will be put to test.
And whether the Tatmadaw proposed bilateral ceasefire in Kengtung will materialize or not is also anybody’s guess, as it will depend on how soon the Tatmadaw will stop its offensives in Arakan and northern Shan states.
With the KIA mum on the attacks and United Wa State Army saying that it has no military alliance with the three ethnic alliance group, plus China’s drastic dressing down for its adventure, the opinions of concerned key players are sadly turning from successful “hero” to “zero” stance, said one seasoned ethnic politics observer.
With the Internally Displace Persons’ count reaching 5000 in northern Shan state in just a few days, due the recent heightened ongoing armed conflict, people are hoping that bilateral ceasefire talks will resume soon, so that a relative peaceful atmosphere and normalcy will quickly return.