RANGOON — The Union-level Joint Monitoring Committee’s (JMC) peace verification team began field visits this week to investigate fighting in early October in Shan State’s Mong Kung between the Burma Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S), a signatory of the nationwide ceasefire agreement.
“We hope to find out what caused the clashes that broke out on Oct. 1 between the two armies,” said Dr. Min Zaw Oo, director of the JMC technical team, which comprises civilians and military representatives from both the Burma Army and the RCSS.
The verification team met with locals in the conflict area beginning on Oct. 31.
“We are trying to verify what happened and if the [ceasefire] agreement was breached. If so, we will take action. If not, we will negotiate so that it does not happen again,” Min Zaw Oo told the Irrawaddy.
Last month, the RCSS told the media that the engagement came after a Burma Army column attacked an RCSS drug rehabilitation camp in Mong Kung, and that fighting spread to nearby villages.
The JMC verification team will conduct interviews in each of the villages and submit their findings for approval before sharing the results with concerned stakeholders.
Colonel Sai La, the secretary of the RCSS, told The Irrawaddy that these field observations are a first and that they are a welcome development as there were accusations from both sides over who started the engagement.
The JMC mechanism is now in place and the inquiry is underway as both armed groups are allowing the investigation to proceed, said Min Zaw Oo.