Myanmar military has begun a ceasefire for more than three months in order to concentrate its energy on handling Covid-19 crisis. The ceasefire however will not cover areas where ethnic rebels the government considers terrorist groups are based.
Among the exceptions are Arakan Army (AA) rebels, which mainly operate in the states of Rakhine (west) and Chin (northwest), the conflict with which has intensified since January, reports Efe news.
The unilateral ceasefire declared by the Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, was announced on Saturday night and will remain in effect until August 31.
The Tatmadaw, which has been accused of having committed multiple crimes against humanity, did not explain in its statement the reasons why it will continue fighting in certain areas and threatened to break the truce in others if attacked.
On March 23, the government designated the AA as a terrorist organization, while only one other rebel group of the dozens operating in the country is currently classified as such – the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), whose attacks in August 2017 sparked a brutal military campaign against the Rohingya minority.
The conflict with the AA, which began in 2009 with the aim to achieve greater autonomy for its territory, resumed in November 2018, leading to the displacement of 150,000 and hundreds of deaths.
“It’s really hard to collaborate with the government as the Myanmar Army is escalating its confrontation in northern Rakhine state,” AA spokesperson Khine Thukha told Efe news.
The AA and its allies announced their own ceasefire in March through to the end of May, although clashes have continued.
A UN official based in the conflict zone told Efe news last month that the Tatmadaw was resorting to “more brutal means” out of the frustration of losing ground to the AA.
Myanmar began its transition to democracy in 2011 after nearly half a century under military rule.
However, the military reserves constitutional prerogatives which give it control of ministries such as defence, interior, and border affairs, along with 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, which provides it considerable sway in the house to veto any amendments to the Constitution.