The Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North’s (SSA-North) brigade near Namatu Township in northern Shan State has come under attack more than a dozen times by Burma’s government forces this month, according to a spokesman. The armed ethnic group said its brigade No. 1 has been under artillery attack since the beginning of September and that the most recent attack was on Monday this week.
The alleged assaults come as talks for a nationwide ceasefire, which the Burmese government hoped to have signed by next month, appear to be in trouble.
“Whenever the attacks happen, there are excuses of the government troops that they are clearing the sites,” said Major Sai La, spokesman for the SSA-North. “They enter our controlled areas, where our brigades and troops are located.”
The latest attack on rebel camps near Maiyin village, Namatu Township, was Monday morning from 4:30 to 6:30 a.m. by the Burma Army’s Hsipaw-based light infantry battalion No. 503 and Lashio-based infantry battalion No. 68, he said.
The Kachin Independence Army and the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) also have forces based in the same area. These two armed groups have not yet reached ceasefire agreements with the government despite having meetings with officials.
The TNLA also said there were engagements between their troops and the government troops in the past two weeks, resulting in the deaths of a few government soldiers.
Although a ceasefire agreement has been signed between the ethnic Shan armed-group and the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Centre, the SSA-North has faced more than 100 attacks over the 19 month period since it reached a new ceasefire deal, said the SSA-North’s Major Sai La.
The SSA-North and government agreed to a new ceasefire in January 2012, after a 22-year ceasefire—signed in 1989—broke down in March 2011 when the Burma Army launched a military offensive against the Shan rebels, displacing more than 30,000 civilians. The two sides have since met several times for peace talks despite fighting on ground.
The government’s chief peace negotiator, the President’s Office Minister Aung Min, has said a Nationwide Ceasefire Accord would be signed with the country’s ethnic groups in October.
Ethnic leaders say frequent re-engagements between the government troops and ethnic armed groups are damaging trust between the parties.
“The executive body is planning for making nationwide ceasefire, but there is no guarantee even for each group, which already signed the ceasefire agreements,” said Sai La.
Previous engagements have taken place at the SSA-North’s headquarters in Kehsi, Monghsu and Tangyang townships. Now fighting is breaking out in Namatu Township, west of the Lashio-Muse road, forcing people from their homes in Maiyin village, according to Sai La.