Palaung army talks peace

Palaung army talks peace

The T-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has vowed to avoid armed clashes and reduce tensions with Burmese government forces, as it bids to join other ethnic armed groups in signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

A statement released by the ethnic Palaung militia on 6 July said it welcomed negotiations last weekend in Chiang Mai between the governments’s Union Peace-making Work Committee and a senior delegation representing ethnic armed groups. The TNLA stressed that an NCA followed by genuine political dialogue are “the necessary steps to enable the country’s political reforms”.

The group expressed concerns for Palaung (also known as Ta-ang) villagers in northern Shan State who have been caught up in hostilities amid a recent upsurge in Burmese military offensives against TNLA positions in the region. It pledged to avoid clashes in the future, except in cases of self-defence, and said it would sign an NCA with the government if its partner ethnic groups do the same.

“We are ready to sign the NCA if every other ethnic armed group does the same,” said TNLA spokesperson Mong Aik Kyaw. “We are making this move as we sympathise with the Palaung civilians who are suffering the consequences of the civil war.”

The TNLA has been frequently engaged in hostilities with the Burmese army ever since conflict erupted in February in northeastern Shan State between government forces and Kokang rebels, who are allied with the TNLA.

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The most recent clash took place this weekend, though much further south, around 50 kilometres northwest of state capital Lashio in Namtu, where a Burmese army outpost was attacked. Local sources told DVB that two Burmese soldiers had been killed and one wounded. Several militias are active in the area, including the TNLA, the Shan State Army–North, Shan State Army–South, and the Kachin Independence Army.

Burmese state media made no mention of the Namtu incident, though military-owned Myawady newspaper reported that on 4 July two suspected TNLA members were arrested in the area carrying firearms.

Despite widespread engagement with other ethnic rebel groups during the ongoing peace process, a Burmese government delegation has met only once with the TNLA, in July 2013.

The Palaung group said it has requested talks with government peace negotiators on four separate occasions but “was completely ignored”.

Meanwhile, ceasefire negotiations have stalled between the ethnic alliance Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and the government, reportedly due to the NCCT’s insistence that a number of points in the draft NCA are revisited – one of which is to include the TNLA, along with the Kokang and Arakan armies, in an all-inclusive ceasefire accord.

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