The Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) has vowed to stop attacking Burmese government units as from Wednesday at midnight, other than for self-defence.
The Kokang rebel group has been embroiled in fighting with government forces in northeastern Shan State since February.
In a 10 June statement, the MNDAA said the decision was taken because of the Chinese government’s relentless calls for stability along the Sino-Burmese border, and to allow Burmese citizens to participate in the upcoming elections. The announcement came just one day after the conclusion of a summit between the leaders of ethnic armed organisations at the Karen rebel headquarters of Law Khee La, a conference which was attended by the MNDAA.
Tun Myat Lin, a spokesperson for the rebel militia, said another reason for declaring a ceasefire is to avoid hindering the ongoing peace process.
“The main reason for declaring a ceasefire is that we don’t want to cause a delay to the ongoing nationwide peace process,” he told DVB. “Also, we never actively attacked the government since the beginning of the conflict, and we want everyone to know that.”
“We are concerned that the conflict will hinder the elections. We understand the general election is a crucial event for the country, and while polling will not take place in our area, we have to consider our ethnic brethren across the country.”
The Burmese government is yet to respond to the MNDAA’s ceasefire announcement.
Meanwhile, the Union Election Commission’s chairman, Tin Aye, indicated that there is still a possibility elections could be held if the situation improves in the Kokang self-administrated region, where martial law is currently in place. The measure was introduced in February following the outbreak of hostilities.
The MNDAA has long maintained that its calls for a truce have gone unheeded by Naypyidaw and the Burmese military, which has regularly deployed fighter jets in offensives to flush out Kokang positions.
The government has stated that it will only sign a multilateral ceasefire agreement with ethnic organisations if the MNDAA, Arakan Army (AA) and Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – all of whom are currently engaged in hostilities with the Burmese army – are excluded from the deal.
However, leaders of ethnic armed groups at Law Khee La this week adopted a resolution that the nationwide ceasefire must include all members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team ethnic coalition.