Fresh Clashes in SSPP Territory after Ceasefire Rejection

By Nyein Nyein 6 October 2015

RANGOON — Fighting has erupted near the Mong Hsu Township headquarters of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), the armed wing of the Shan State Progressive Party, with no casualties reported so far despite three hours of pitched battle.

Around 300 troops from the military’s Eastern Command in Taunggyi clashed with the rebel group between 8:40am and midday on Tuesday, according to SSPP spokesman Lt-Col Sai La.

“The base that was attacked is an important frontline on the route to our headquarters in Wan Hai village,” he told The Irrawaddy. “The government’s troops were still present in the area until Tuesday afternoon. We are still collecting information as to whether there were any casualties.”

The clash is the first since the Burma Armed Forces shelled areas under SSA-N control near Wan Hai on Aug. 7. Sai La speculated that the attack may relate to the SSA-N’s decision not to sign the nationwide ceasefire accord, which the government is aiming to conclude on Oct. 15 with the support of seven ethnic armed groups.

“We don’t know the reason why we are being attacked, but it has coincided with the time we have announced our decision not to sign the ceasefire agreement,” he said.

The SSA-N renewed a 1989 bilateral ceasefire with the government in 2012, the year after two of its three brigades agreed to reconstitute themselves as a pro-government Border Guard Force. Since then, the rebel group says it has fought with government troops on more than 100 occasions and has since lost five base camps to the military.

In August and September, areas under the control of the Shan State Army-South, the armed wing of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), also came under attack in Loilen district.

In response to the clashes, the RCSS banned political parties from campaigning in several Loilen townships for the Nov. 8 general election, which was lifted on Thursday. The RCSS has been named as a possible signatory to the nationwide ceasefire agreement, but has yet to commit to the accord.

Sai Kyaw Hla, the secretary of the Shan Nationalities Development Party (SNDP), which is contesting most constituencies in Shan State, told The Irrawaddy that if fighting continued in Loilen district, his party would have to reevaluate its plans to campaign in the area.

“As there is lack of access to communication in thise areas, we have not heard about [Tuesday’s] fighting,” he said. “But we planned to go there to campaign this week—we will have to reconsider.”

Additional reporting by Kyaw Kha.