A Burmese military-owned newspaper said that government troops killed two people and arrested 48 others in an attack last week on a base run by the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North), an armed group that recently signed a ceasefire agreement with Naypyidaw.
Sources from the SSA-North disputed the claim, however, saying that most of those arrested in the Oct. 26 raid were civilians picked up in villages around Shan State’s Mongton Township, where the base is located.
According to the Myawaddy Daily, owned by Burma’s armed forces, the raid took place while the SSA-North was conducting military training at the base. It added that two uniformed members of the group were killed in the assault, while several others managed to escape.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, SSA-North spokesperson Sai Hla said, “Most of the people who were arrested were Shan villagers. Only seven of the 48 were from the SSA-North.”
Leaders of the SSA-North have tried to meet with Burmese military officers in Mongton twice in the past week to ask for the release of the prisoners, but have yet to receive a response.
“Whenever we went there, they told us that they weren’t ready to meet yet because they haven’t received orders from top leaders,” said Sai Hla.
The incident is just the latest to strain the SSA-North’s ceasefire agreement with the Burmese army. Clashes between the two sides have been reported in Kyaukme, Hsipaw, Panglong, Loilan, Mongton and other townships since a formal end to hostilities was announced in January.
Local sources say that the Burmese army has increased its presence in the area since the deal was reached. In some cases, Burmese troops have occupied bases that the SSA-North vacated as part of the agreement.
The SSA-North says it continues to face pressure to hand over other strongholds in the area.
In an open letter sent to President Thein Sein earlier this month, the group asked him to order his troops not to violate the terms of the ceasefire.
The letter also called on the president to protect human rights and not to detain Shan villagers.