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Naypyidaw has extended an olive branch to the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), inviting the armed rebels to sign a separate bilateral ceasefire, after excluding the Shan State group for much of the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) negotiations.
TNLA secretary Ta Bhone Kyaw told DVB the group had received a call from Myanmar Peace Centre on 18 September, requesting bilateral talks.
“They [Myanmar Peace Centre] said that President U Thein Sein had reconsidered the government’s stance, and that the Burmese army agreed with his decision. We were invited to sign a bilateral agreement. They said if we do this urgently, then we will get an opportunity to sign the NCA along with other groups. We can still catch up,” said Ta Bhone Kyaw.
“They suggested meeting in Chiang Mai, but we said it will not be possible as at the moment we have no representative there.”
He added that the TNLA is currently holding a central committee meeting, and will formally respond to the government’s invitation when the meeting has concluded – but that the government may need to reconsider their offer amid ongoing skirmishes, as Burmese troops continue to clash with the TNLA and Shan State Army–South (SSA-S).
SSA-S spokesperson Col. Sai Lai told DVB the latest bout of hostilities broke out in southern Shan State’s Loilem District on 22 September, when troops from the Burmese army’s Mong Pawn 527th battalion arrived in an area where the rebels are known to be active.
“A fight broke out in the village of Kaungtan, after our troops ambushed Burmese army units that entered the area,” said Sai La, adding that at least two Burmese soldiers were killed. The SSA-S reported no fatalities from the encounter.
Sai La also recounted minor clashes with the Burmese army in nearby Namsang and Lawksawk townships, respectively, on 21 September.
The TNLA has likewise reported hostilities with government troops – in northern Shan State’s Momeik and Kyauke townships. TNLA information officer Mong Aik Kyaw said they had exchanged gunfire with Burmese forces as recently as Monday, 21 September.
“The government forces mobilised three military columns and attempted to surround our position, so we returned fire and began retreating,” Mong Aik Kyaw said.
“The fight lasted for about two hours and, as it was a close quarter battle, we could see they had five dead and three injured, but we did not suffer as many causalities as we were firing and retreating.”
He added that while there has been no fighting since Monday’s battle, violence can break out at any time due to government forces and TNLA taking positions within close proximity to each other.
The SSA-A, Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Benevolent Karen Army, and Karen Peace Council (KPC) announced their intention to sign the NCA, in a joint statement on 18 August.
Over the weekend, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) forces supported the TNLA against Burmese government forces in Kyaukme Township, Shan State. The KIA, the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation, have refused to accede to an NCA that does not include all ethnic groups, including the TNLA.
Read more about the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement