Based on conflict data, interviews and media monitoring, this study of Myanmar’s non-inclusive ceasefires develops a four-step argument about the effect of ceasefires in complex conflict systems. First, non-state armed groups rarely co-ordinate their actions strategically. This makes it easy for governments to obtain ceasefires with some groups while fighting others. Second, when ceasefires ensure armed groups’ survival, they mostly hold. Third, non-inclusive ceasefires do not reduce a country’s overall level of violence, since fighting tends to escalate with excluded groups. On this basis we conclude that non-inclusive ceasefires do not present a viable alternative to an inclusive peace process.