Burma Army Clashes with Nationwide Ceasefire Signatory Group in Shan State

By Kyaw Kha 4 October 2016

The Burma Army clashed with the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) over two days in central Shan State, after the Burma Army attacked a drug rehabilitation camp set up by the SSA-S in the Warn Lee area of Mong Kung Township on Saturday, according to SSA-S spokesman Lt-Col Sai Mein.

The Shan State Army-South, whose political wing is known as the Restoration Council of Shan State, was among eight ethnic armed groups that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) with the previous government in October last year. Since then, its relations with the Burma Army have been relatively positive.

“Without warning, the Burma Army attacked a drug rehabilitation camp in an area of our control and released criminals from the prison there. We did not deploy troops at the camp; it is managed by local villagers,” Lt-Col Sai Mein told The Irrawaddy.

On Saturday evening, they launched attacks on a hill where SSA-S troops were deployed, and clashes continued the following day, he said.

On Monday, SSA-S headquarters ordered their troops to retreat, with Burma Army troops withdrawing at the same time, he said.

The SSA-S claimed no injuries or casualties on their side, and could not comment on losses on the Burma Army side, but claimed to have seized six rucksacks and several landmines, grenades and bullets from the Burma Army.

“[The Burma Army] has contacted our liaison offices for talks, but this is just not enough after they launched an offensive against us. It is in breach of the NCA, and I think they are deliberately harming the peace,” said Lt-Col Sai Mein.

The Irrawaddy contacted the Burma Army’s Directorate of Public Relations and Psychological Warfare but was unable to obtain comment.

The clashes have forced over 2,000 locals—including women, children and the elderly—from their homes, with two monasteries providing temporary shelter, according to Sai Hsai Mein, a Lower House lawmaker representing Mong Kung Township who, alongside other lawmakers, is aiding relief efforts and food provision.

At least seven schools have been closed following the clashes, and the locals that remain dare not leave their houses to pursue their livelihoods.

“I have grown up amid gunfire in Mong Kung. We have seen relative peace in the past three to four years, and it is not good for the people for clashes to resume. I want the problems to be solved at the [negotiating] table rather than with guns. In every armed clash, it is the locals who suffer,” lawmaker Sai Hsai Mein told The Irrawaddy.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.