Myanmar military and rebel alliance agree China-brokered ceasefire after months of brutal fighting

A previous ceasefire pact reached in mid-December was not honoured by either side

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 12 January 2024 15:00 GMT
Related: Myanmar politician detained by military as army seizes control of the country

Myanmar’s military and ethnic rebel groups have agreed to a China-brokered ceasefire after more than two months of intense fighting in the country’s northeast.

Beijing on Friday said the Myanmar military has agreed to stop aerial bombing and artillery shelling in the northern Shan state, while the alliance of rebel forces agreed to halt its offensive and not seek to capture more towns and army encampments.

The ceasefire would not apply to fighting in other regions of Myanmar, according to local reports.

The Myanmar military – led by General Min Aung Hlaing – has been facing its biggest challenge from an alliance of armed ethnic groups since wresting power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a 2021 coup.

The ceasefire is not expected to have any immediate bearing on the fate of Ms Suu Kyi or other political prisoners, thousands of whom remain behind bars despite an amnesty earlier this month.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance – which comprises the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance army, the Ta’ang National Liberation army and the Arakan Army – intensified its attacks on the military in late October with the launch of “Operation 1027” in junta-controlled areas.

In particular, there has been aggressive fighting in Shan state along the northern border with China.

The truce agreement was mediated by China with talks on Wednesday and Thursday in Kunming, a Chinese provincial capital about 250 miles from the border with Myanmar, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

“China hopes the relevant parties in Myanmar can conscientiously implement the agreement, exercise maximum restraint toward each other and solve the issues through dialogue and consultations,” she said at a briefing in Beijing.

Major General Zaw Min Tun, the spokesperson of Myanmar’s ruling military council, said the two sides had met in Kunming and after talks, agreed on a temporary ceasefire agreement.

“We will continue discussions. We will continue to work for the strengthening of the ceasefire,” Maj Gen Zaw Min Tun said.

A previous ceasefire pact reached in mid-December was not honoured by either side.

According to China’s spokesperson the military and the brotherhood agreed to an immediate ceasefire, the disengaging of military personnel and the settlement of their disputes through negotiations.

“The two sides promised not to undermine the safety of Chinese people living in the border area and Chinese projects and personnel in Myanmar,” Ms Ning said.

The rebel forces did not immediately confirm the ceasefire.

Since the 2021 coup, the country has been embroiled in a bloody civil war that saw the junta crushing the rebels with both arbitrary detention and brute violence.

The brotherhood’s attack on the military has posed the greatest battlefield challenge to Myanmar’s junta rulers since the army takeover.

The alliance has claimed widespread victories, including the seizure of more than 250 military posts, about a dozen towns and five major border crossing points controlling crucial trade with China.

Maj Gen Zaw Min Tun said Myanmar and China will continue to negotiate reopening the border trading gates, which were closed after combat began and are now in the hands of the Three Brotherhood Alliance.

Additional reporting by agencies

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