More Deadly Violence in Burma’s Shan State Sends 1,000 Fleeing Toward China

SSA-South soldiers go through their paces during training. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

SSA-South soldiers go through their paces during training. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

Renewed clashes between ethnic armed groups and Burmese government forces in Shan State, reportedly killed nine Burmese troops on Thursday, leading more than 1,000 villagers to flee the fighting to the border with China.

Burmese government troops launched an attack on a Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) base in Nam Kham Township, a mountainous region of Burma that juts out in-between China and Laos, in the early hours of Thursday morning. About 1,000 villagers fled to Nam Kham town, while more fled across the China border to the Chinese town of Rulli.

Sources at Nam Kham hospital said nine Burmese government soldiers had been killed in Thursday’s fighting and eight are seriously injured, while Shan rebel sources told The Irrawaddy that the bodies 11 dead government soldiers had been recovered from the battlefield. One SSA-S fighter was reported dead and four injured, an SSA-S source said.

Sai Kyaw, an MP in Nam Kham, described hearing the first salvo from Burmese army positions. “I heard heavy gun fire from around 4.30am. The fire came from the countryside. Now the government army is firing artillery rounds near Naung Ma village,” he said. “Villagers are fleeing their homes. Some are running into China, while some take refuge at their relatives’ homes in Nam Kham.”

After a brief lull in artillery fire at about noon on Thursday, sources in Nam Kham said shelling had resumed throughout the afternoon.

“There shouldn’t be any fighting during ceasefire period,” Sai Kyaw added. “We should tackle disagreements through discussions.”

The expansion of fighting in Shan State, which broke out in early April between the SSA-North and Burmese military forces despite a ceasefire agreement, Maj Sai Lao Hseng said, shows the Burmese government is not serious about peace.

“The fighting broke out at 4am. The government troops from Infantry Battalion 145 attacked our frontline base. They launched artillery shelling,” Sai Lao Hseng said. One of our soldiers died. All of the villagers from Naw Ma village tracts in Naw Kham Township have fled their homes. Some crossed into China.

“As asked, we have been cooperating with the government in the peace process. But the government army has not obeyed the ceasefire, which is a part of the peace process. So we feel like the ceasefire is just a peace accord on paper. It doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground,” he added.

The Burmese military were unavailable for comment on Thursday.

The battle for Nam Kham seems to have started over the alleged arrest of four Burmese citizens by Shan rebels. Naypyidaw requested they be returned to where they were last seen near the Chinese border, but Shan rebels denied knowledge of their whereabouts. The Burmese military in Shan State then requested an inspection on May 2 of another Shan rebel base in the area. Under the pretext of the inspection, Burmese army units burned down the base.

The outbreak of fighting on Thursday comes amid a widening conflict in northeastern Burma, which intensified in December 2012 with heavy fighting in northern Kachin State leading to at least 70,000 Kachin refugees fleeing to China. Since early April, the Burmese military has expanded its campaign into northern and central Shan State in an attempt to seize bases along the strategically important Salween River.

David Eubank, the founder and director of the Free Burma Rangers, said: “The conflict between the government of Burma and the ethnic people of Burma goes on. There is a build-up of Burma Army positions in territory taken from the ethnic groups.

“No resolution has been agreed on. The root issues of ethnic rights, basic human rights, self-determination, local governance, transparency and justice must be addressed.”

There are fears that displaced villagers will be trapped by the violence, as China has reportedly sealed its border near the conflict zone.

Residents in Nam Kham speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Thursday said China was turning back refugees. Ferry gates leading from Nam Kham to China have now been closed. “I think people might be blocked in the war zone,” one resident said.

Daniel Pye contributed reporting from Rangoon.


10 Responses to More Deadly Violence in Burma’s Shan State Sends 1,000 Fleeing Toward China

  1. This is during peace process and war is still going on! Any group who trust the military’s “Honey words” will fall into the trap just like the Shans!!

  2. Thank God its not Muslims. When will peace prevail in Burma?
    Hope both parties come to the negotiations.
    What is Wirathu doing? At this moment he should have been in Shan State to help the Burmese army.

    • Wirathu is a mad man..there is no use for him being around anywhere. He should be jailed for life for talking nonsense. Evil begets evil. For what they did to muslims, now they are facing a formidable foe in the Shan state.

    • You thank God that Burmese government is killing others, not Muslims. This is what your mentality is all about. We the ethnics cry with you when innocent Muslims got assaulted.

    • Every human beings with right mind should deplore any killings of others regardless of race or religion. It’s a shame and disgusting to bear evil hearts towards other innocent people especially just after recent disaster

  3. European and other western countries should give Thein Sein another peace award for honoring the peace accord with Shan Freedom Fighters. Attacking Shan people while peace process is going on. Same thing Burmese army did with Kachin.

  4. Evil begets evil. The Burmese Buddhists thought they could get away by ethnic cleansing of the muslims, but now they facing another challenge in the north, this time by the Shan people who are militarily equipped. As the saying goes evil sows the seeds of another bigger evil.

  5. Peace process – smoke-screen for the Tatmadaw to continue aggression against the ethnic areas. They are set on taking control of these territories, one by one. Such a pity that all the ethnic groups never managed to sign a cooperation agreement to help defend each other against such aggression.

    • Even smoke screen is a kind word. There is no peace process at all. Simply tactical decisions to concentrate on one or the other. But the international communities , not because they are naive as the popular opinion goes, but because they have something to gain are going along with lying to the majority Burmese public and some naive elements of the global public (the sorts who think their mothers are virgins and Aung San Suu Kyi is a saint).

      Funny thing is it works only because the armed groups themselves are so divided with this UNFC crap etc not withstanding, they go on to have a “Piece Deal” thinking they will get some crumb out of those, drooling for money, power or status until their turn comes all too soon.

      It is now clear the so called international communities fronted by their democratically elected governments and international loan and so-called development agencies will keep praising the Kyat Pyae Asoya and their wholehearted supporter, once were thought to be on people’s side, Aung San Suu Kyi regardless of any form of inhumane atrocities they mete out liberally to all hoping the people will stay fooled until irreversible damage can be done to the unity and resolve of the public of Burma.

      It must also be remembered that none of those armed groups are themselves democratic and are not necessarily representing or working in the interests of the people they share their names with.

      Then, along comes Fascist Sasakawa with their most right wing party LDP with buddy Shinzo Abe on the throne in Japan trying to make deals to buy out the leaders of the armed groups. Not to mention Soros trying to do the same. Jews and Norwegians of double-deal-the-Tamils-in-Sri-Lanka fame and Fascists and Wa-yun-pyae Thaksin and Pimp Chauvalit and Pimp Blair. Great!

      Things will get more complicated and can only get worse

      • Ohn. I like a lot of what you say. If ever there is a chance we could continue the conversation, preferably over a cold beer or two and some choice dishes, I’d be more than willing to do so. I live in Thailand, why don’t you search me out on FB (same name).

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