Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann has urged stakeholders in the peace process to protect civilians through their actions, rather than their own interests, following repeated clashes between the Tatmadaw and various armed groups.

The speaker made the comments following a proposal submitted to the Pyithu Hluttaw by U Sai Awng Seng Mai on July 15 that aims to stop further clashes between the Tatmadaw and armed groups, including those that have signed peace agreements with the government.

“They [peacemaking officials] all need to implement the peace process,” Thura U Shwe Mann said. “If there are some matters that require coordination between two parties, peacemakers need to act reliably and honestly. Both sides need to maintain respect and trust.”

He said that President U Thein Sein, “told the respective [government] departments to take responsibility.

“I want to tell you to take responsibility because we are all public staff. The hluttaw is the people’s representatives. It is not for only for one group or one people. If you look at what’s in the people’s interest, you all need to implement your promise to your people by taking responsibility,” Thura U Shwe Mann said.

He also urged the respective departments, including the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, to work for regional stability and to provide security to the people.

Despite the ceasefire agreements signed between the government’s Peace-Making Committee and every ethnic armed group, except the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Palaung National Liberation Army (PNLA), numerous skirmishes have broken out in the past 24 months that put civilians in danger and generated waves of internal refugees.

Thura U Shwe Mann urged parliamentarians to think first of those living in conflict areas whose lives are on the line.

Soon after taking office, President U Thein Sein’s government invited all armed groups to make peace with the national regime. To facilitate the process, the Union Peace-Making Central Committee and Union Peace Making Working Committees were formed in 2011, which then initiated peace talks with ethnic armed groups.

A presentation given by Daw Nan War Nu, Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Kunhein constituency in Shan State, detailed skirmishes between the Tatmadaw and the KIA in southern Kachin State’s Man Wun region in June 2014, as well as another clash with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) near Pomahe village in Karen State. Similarly, the Tatmadaw has fought battles against the PNLA, and the Shan State Progress Party and its armed wing, the Shan State Army.

During the two years since ceasefires were agreed, more than 100 separate skirmishes broke out in Shan State, with 28 recorded in 2014.

Some members of the Peace-Making Working Committee, including those also on the Pyithu Hluttaw’s Ethnic Affairs, Rural Social Life Enhancing and Local Peace Making committees, say they participate in peace talks but have little sway in what happens.

“I am a member of the Peace-Making Committee as well as being a representative of Kachin State but I can’t effectively take part in peace talks with the KIA,” said Daw Dwebu, Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Ingyanyan constituency in Kachin State. “It is meaningless to be a Peace-Making Committee member because I can’t even participate in my home state’s affairs.”

She added that ceasefire agreements meant nothing against a backdrop of regular clashes.

Representatives have regularly pushed to have more input in the peace process but officials from the Myanmar Peace Center, which has been working closely with the government in peace negotiations, have said there is little for parliament to do until a nationwide ceasefire has been agreed.

Translation by Thiri Min Htun