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Academic “Thailand is best fit to mediate for peace in Myanmar”, China’s plan to create buffer state to protect national interest lading to the total seize of Northern Shan State by Three Brotherhood Alliance, it’s time for Thailand since it is trusted trust by both Myanmar Army and ethnic armed groups

Transborder News, 16 January 2024: Armed conflicts continue to escalate in all regions of Myanmar as the resistance forces appear to have lay siege to a number of strongholds of the Myanmar Army, particularly in various ethnic states. In Shan State, the Three Brotherhood Alliance composed of the Kokang forces (Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army-MNDAA), the Ta’ang or Palaung forces (Ta’ang National Liberation Army-TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA) have launched the Operation 1027 offensive campaigns since late October 2023 and has successfully occupied various areas in Northern Shan State. Meanwhile, a number of Myanmar troops have laid down their arms prompting various parties to speculate that Myanmar is reaching a pivotal point, although no one can clearly foresee the exact outcome of the unfolding situations.

On 15 January 2024, Dr. Lalita Hanwong, Assistant Professor of Department of History, Faculty of Social Sciences, Kasetsart University and an advisor to the House Committee on National Security, Border Affairs, National Strategy, and National Reform, the House of Representatives, has said in an interview with Transborder News that actually the fighting in Myanmar has been happening all the time, but this time, more armed groups are involved including the PDF (People’s Defense Force) under the National Unity Government. (NUG). There has been more dynamism and more warring parties in the armed conflict and the various groups have created a new alliance for cooperation with the most successful case of the alliance that has launched the Operation 1027 campaign by the Three Brotherhood Alliance composed of Kokang, Ta’ang and Arakan.
 
“Personally, I think one of the most important developments recently was the intervention by China, an external power, through the Operation 1027. As widely known, their interference has empowered the Three Brotherhood Alliance until it could successfully lay siege to Laukkaing, the capital of Kokang Self-Administered Zone and its adjacent area. Lately, China even offers to mediate and hold a meeting to seek a reciliation between the various ethnic armed groups, particularly those under the umbrella of the Three Brotherhood Alliance and the Myanmar Army. Still, they continue to open fire against each other. It has been mocked that the Kunming’s peace and ceasefire talk has simply been conducted to achieve the KPI goals set out by the PRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs” quipped an expert on Myanmar.
 
According to Dr.Lalita, the reason that prompted China to intervene until the Three Brotherhood Alliance could occupy Laukkaing stems from the fact that it had warned the Myanmar Army repeatedly urging them to crack down on the Chinese mafia in Laukkaing and Kokang. 

But since the Myanmar Army does not have an absolute control over Kokang Self-Administered Zone, it has failed with such suppression. The forces that have controlling power there is the Kokang’s BGF. Therefore, in order to comprehend the overall conflicts in Myanmar, one must understand a couple of factors. Firstly, each ethnic group has its own unique agenda. Secondly, an intervention has been made by one of the most formidable powers in the region, China, which determines that since the Myanmar government has failed to uphold their duties, China has to act on its own, i.e. by sending their police forces to Laukkaing given its shared border and the existing influence of Chiana in the area. This has exacerbated the situation in the view of the ethnic groups. The Operation 1027 clearly serves as a great inspiration for various other ethnic groups and there could be more surprises by other ethnic groups.
 
According to the advisor to the House Committee on National Security, if various ethnic groups could mobilize together to continue battling the Myanmar Army and the SAC (State Administration Council), it will eventually leave them only the control of Naypyidaw, Yangon and Mandalay, the strategic areas of the PDF. The seize of Mandalay is now not really a far-reaching dream.
 
“According to my sources in security agencies, the chance the ethnic armed groups could capture Naypyidaw is a bit far-off. But if such question is raised to the resistance group, they would feel this is an easy task since the Myanmar troops have now lost their spirit and morale with the defection of their fellow troops. It is indicative of the loss of morale among the Myanmar military men. I personally think it is too soon to launch an attack on Naypyidaw or Yangon given the ten-lane-road design there, how could they mobilize their forces through it? Naypyidaw has been bult to withstand any similar threat and to address weaknesses of Yangon which is situated by the river and it enables the hostile forces to maneuverer in close proximity,” said the expert.
 
Nevertheless, in the wake of the Operation 1027, Dr.Lalita said, China must be satisfied now since it has been able to protect their territories in Kokang and Northern Shan State. Since the Three Brotherhood Alliance takes control of Laukkaing and its adjacent area, it enables China to protect its territory in Kokang since China has invested in creating their foundation there and it is obliged to protect the area to keep away the Chinese mafia and to prevent any deadly armed conflict there. Since the Operation 1027, the NUG has changed its stance to show more support to China and its One China policy since it is aware the defeat of SAC hinges on China more than what it had anticipated. Therefore, the peace talk held by China meets their demands since (1) there is no longer any fighting in the area of interest to China, (2) the Kokang’s BGF, beyond the Chinese control, has been dismantled, (3) the Chinese mafia involved with abduction and other criminalities has been eliminated since it has been regarded as a formidable threat to China’s national security. The Operation 1027 has been successful. China has no intention to bring about peace to Myanmar. It is happy to see the continuation of low intensity of armed hostilities between the ethnic armed groups just to ensure the integrity of its border through the creation of buffer zone by the ethnic Kokang and in other areas.
 
As to the question that on one hand, China supports the ethnic armed groups, but on the other, China still flirts with the SAC to serve their mutual interest, what is really the state of relations between the Chinese government and the Myanmar government? The Assistant Professor of Department of History replied that the relations between China and Myanmar have been established since the latter’s independence. Until now, Myanmar does not appear to engage in any hostility or confrontation with China. They continue to preserve tolerance when approaching each other. Although the Myanmar Army may behave aggressively to other nations, but it has always acted gently toward China. Myanmar tries to let China know that it poses no aggression toward China.

“Myanmar adopts the softest approach (toward China). But for China is not happy since the SAC remains complacent or aloof toward the problems. Among the countries that share border with China, Myanmar appears to the one that offers China the maximum business interest since it can connect China to the vast economic area in the Indian Ocean through Arakan State and Northern Shan State. China has therefore invested in various infrastructure projects in Myanmar. But the relations between China and Myanmar have not advanced to the level between Thailand and Myanmar which have been talking to each other as sisters and brothers. Myanmar has never trusted any ethnic groups. Even though Thailand is among the dearest friends of Myanmar, they have anticipated that one day an internal change in Thailand would lead to a shift in foreign policies between Thailand and Myanmar. Myanmar thus does not trust China since it is aware that if it is fully open and allows China to invest freely, it will become a country like Laos, Bangladesh or Cambodia’s Sihanoukville, and Myanmar does not want that,” said Lalita.
 
Asked about the defeat in Northern Shan State, which was felt by not only the Myanmar Army, but even the ethnic Shan people who used to own the land before, and thus they feel dejected seeing their land being occupied by forces from elsewhere, what is your take on this? Lalita replied that the situation in Shan State appears to be a state within a state whereas a small city is home to two enormous forces, the General Yawd Serk’s SSA (Shan State Army South) and the SSA North whose troops have their distinctive appearances and unique languages.
 
“The vast land in Shan State serves as a buffer zone between China and Myanmar, and therefore it is challenging to create a sustainable peace in Shan State. What can guarantee if peace will reign once a ceasefire agreement is struck since there are hostilities even between the SSA North and South. Therefore, the emergence of the Three Brotherhood Alliance in Northern Shan State shall make the ethnic Shan in Shan State lose their credibility and weaken their forces. This is so normal for the more resourceful forces to gradually occupy the land they attack” said an academic from Kasetsat University.
 
Lalita also suggested that close attention should be paid to the role of UWSA since in a long run, they aspire to take control of part of Shan State to expand their territory to Southern Shan State adjacent to the border with Thailand or the entire Eastern flank of the Salween River.
 
“If UWSA could fulfill their dream, it would not only lead to the weakening of the role of SSA South-North, but also the defeat of various small armed groups in Shan State crushed by the larger forces. Otherwise, they might band together to serve other purposes. Therefore, it is likely that these small armed groups shall eventually be assimilated” said the advisor to the House Committee on National Security.
 
According to Lalita, as long as the policy makers in Myanmar continue to show their lack of sincerity toward the unification of all ethnic groups, it is hard to imagine of the achievement of lasting peace.
 

“It is impossible unless the various ethnic groups would band together and talk to each other. Personally, I think there is only on country in the world that can help to forge a peace talk in Myanmar which is Thailand since SAC has a close tie with the Thai Army and they do not trust China. The Thai Army and the ethnic groups can also talk to each other. The key ethnic groups have developed good relations with Thailand. The relations between Thailand and the Myanmar Army in the past 20 years are quite good. We can potentially be a venue to hold peace talk with the representatives from the ethnic minorities who feel safe here” said Dr.Lalita.

This is a translation of original Thai article https://transbordernews.in.th/home/?p=36956

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