Burma Army Agrees to Withdraw From Disputed Shan Territories

By Nyein Nyein 20 October 2014

Government troops have agreed to retreat from some areas near the upper Salween River, during an emergency meeting with ethnic Shan rebels on Saturday.

Members of the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) met with the government’s Union Peace-making Work Committee in Lashio, Shan State, to discuss skirmishes between Shan soldiers and the Burma Army in Kyethi Township, near areas under the control of the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

Sao Khun Hsai, secretary of the SSPP/SSA, said that a resolution was reached and that “both sides agreed not to let this happen in the future.”

Burmese troops, he said, will be withdrawn from the disputed Tah Phar Hsawng territories on the western side of the river, where sporadic conflict has reportedly left seven people dead and caused hundreds of villagers to flee their homes.

Local sources said that although fighting was reignited in the area in early October there has been no sound of gunfire over the past few days.

On Oct. 9, Shan State Minister for Border Affairs and Security Col. Aung Thu sent a letter to the SSPP/SSA leadership ordering the rebel troops to withdraw, claiming that they had entered Union territories. The Shans maintained that the land in question was under their jurisdiction.

Though the letter initially angered many ethnic leaders, Sao Khun Hsai said following the meeting that, “it has been settled and they agreed not to do that again.”

The Burma Army has also agreed to compensate civilians that were affected by fighting in Tah Phar Hsawng, he added.

“I was told that some 2.2 million kyats [US$2,200] will be allocated to compensate war refugees and people whose homes were destroyed,” he said. “The discussion went well and we just have to wait and see if that will be implemented as planned.”

Negotiators also discussed the formation of a coordinating team for state stability and development, as well as the future role of liaison offices, which have been established in rebel territories to facilitate bilateral relations as the peace process barrels onward.

The SSPP/SSA, also known as the Shan State Army-North, is one of Burma’s strongest rebel armies, with an estimated force of about 4,000. The group signed a new state-level ceasefire with the central government on Jan. 28, 2012, and is currently involved in Union-level peace negotiations.