Military chief discusses clashes with ethnic groups

Military chiefs, led by Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, held an hour-long meeting with representatives from 13 ethnic armed groups, who attended the Union Day celebration, in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday. He explained the Laukkaing clashes and the national policies of the military, said the representatives, who clarified the stances of their armed organisations.

“The commander-in-chief met us before attending the commemoration of General Aung San’s 100th birthday,” said Khun Myint Tun, chairman of the Pao National Liberation Organisation. 

“He mainly focused on the three national policies of the military: peace and stability; development and unity. He also said the military would stick to multiparty democracy.” 

Colonel Sai La, spokesperson of the Shan State Army, said: “Peace is our main discussion point. We will cooperate with others for national reconciliation. The military also promised to try to help. It was a good meeting because understanding was built between the military and ethnic armed groups. The more we meet, the more we can reduce suspicions.” 

Another representative quoted Min Aung Hlaing saying that the military would not attack any organisation’s headquarters but clashes after a confrontation in an operational area could be accepted. Offensive attacks challenged the military and information was being collected about the Laukkaing clashes, the general apparently said. 

“It is true the commander-in-chief said those organisations involved in the Laukkaing clashes would be informed. They must take responsibility, he said. The military chief said he did not deny that individual soldiers might have been involved in narcotics. But the military’s policy was to crack down on drugs. He also said severe action was being taken against some military personnel with drug addictions,” said the representative. 

Khun Myint Tun said the triangular region commander would hold a press conference on the Laukkaing clashes. 

The military said Kokang renegade troops attacked troops stationed in Laukkaing Township of the Kokang Special Region from February 9. In the clashes, 47 government troops were killed and over 70 wounded. Reinforcements would prevent Kokang troops from operating in the area, it said. 

The clashes occurred between the government and an allied group of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army troops, said a TNLA spokesperson. 

Other sources said the Kachin Independence Army was also involved.