NAY PYI TAW — Upper house speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than intervened on Wednesday to stop a proposal which called for a ceasefire in Rakhine State and an end to the Tatmadaw forcing civilians to serve as porters.
The proposal was submitted on May 2 by U Wai Sein Aung, a Rakhine representative from the Arakan National Party, after weeks of clashes between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army forced more than 1500 civilians to flee their homes.
But after military MPs raised objections, accusing the Rakhine MP of trying to create a “political dilemma” for the government, Mahn Win Khaing Than suggested the proposal only be put on record as the government “is inviting all groups to take part in the peace process”.
This decision was approved by the National League for Democracy-dominated parliament, with 202 votes for and just six against.
If the proposal had been approved, it would have compelled the government to push for a ceasefire. This could have created conflict with the military, as it has vowed to “annihilate” the AA.
U Win Sein Aung said later that he was “unhappy” with the decision and denied trying to cause difficulties for the government.
Earlier, Minister for Defence Lieutenant General Sein Win said the proposal was an attempt to cause trouble for the new government.
He said clashes with the AA had begun in 2015, but Rakhine MPs had only raised the issue in parliament after U Htin Kyaw’s government had taken office.
He was speaking after 10 MPs, including three from the military, had already discussed the proposal.
NLD representative U Min Oo urged parliament to put the proposal on record, rather than approve it. He said the government was working to get peace across the country, but the issue was “so delicate and needs to be handled with care”
Lieutenant Colonel Soe Shwe said the Tatmadaw was not the aggressor, and had been provoked by the AA.
“The Tatmadaw is trying to maintain the peace in Rakhine State,” he said, adding that it also plans to take legal action against to those who spread reports the Tatmadaw is forcing villagers to serve as porters.
According to the Tatmadaw, there have been 42 clashes with the AA since March 2015.
The AA was central to the failure of last year’s nationwide ceasefire agreement, which was signed by only eight of around 20 armed groups.
The major sticking point for the non-signatories was the military’s refusal to allow AA and two other groups – the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army – to participate in the peace process.
Earlier this month, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi vowed to bring all armed groups back into the peace process, but has provided few details on how she plans to do this.
The government is planning to hold a peace conference in the coming months.