By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER
NAY PYI TAW — The four ethnic armed groups that launched a joint offensive in northern Shan State on November 20 should be formally declared terrorist groups, Minister for Defense Lieutenant-General Sein Win told lawmakers on December 2.
The minister told the Pyithu Hluttaw, or lower house, that their activities – which include attacking military and police outposts, blowing up bridges and halting traffic on the main highway to China – constituted terrorist acts.
“Since they killed and injured civilians, destroyed and sabotaged non-military infrastructure, vehicles and property, the Hluttaw should put them on the list of terrorist groups,” Sein Win said.
At least 18 people, including combatants and civilians, have been killed and 73 injured since the Alliance of the Northern Brotherhood – comprising the Kachin Independence Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – launched the offensive. An estimated 3,000 have sought refuge across the border in China, while thousands more have fled to camps in Muse Township.
Sein Win said the Hluttaw should also instruct NGOs and INGOs to stop providing humanitarian aid to people affected by conflict who are within the territory of the four groups.
“The Northern Alliance groups are launching armed struggle against the state – or in other words, against democratic system – when they could instead make their demands through MPs in the Hluttaw,” he said, adding that the conflict could create a “political and economic crisis” for the government.
Sein Win made the comments while MPs were discussing an emergency proposal urging the Hluttaw to express concern over the treat to the country’s sovereignty, stability and peace as a result of the attacks in northern Shan State. The proposal was submitted by Dr Maung Thin, the Union Solidarity and Development Party representative for Meiktila in Mandalay Region.
Speaker U Win Myint did not comment on the minister’s proposal. After the discussion concluded, the hluttaw decided to record the proposal rather than approve or reject it.
But Colonel Tar Bone Kyaw from the TNLA dismissed the defence minister’s remarks. “Yes, people suffer when there is fighting. But one has to consider who is starting the flame. The Northern Alliance is carrying out an unavoidable campaign to escape from intense military pressure,” he told Frontier. “We will not detour from peace process – we are trying to follow the government’s peace process.”
The defence minister said the conflict has led to a huge drop in the number of cargo trucks at the 105 Mile trade zone just south of Muse. While 4,000 cargo trucks normally pass through the checkpoint each day, that has since dropped to about 200 trucks, he said.
Ko Zaw Tun Naing, who lives in 105 Mile zone, told Frontier that residents were anxious about the economic impacts of the conflict. “We hope that we can live in peace as soon as possible.”