Kokang Rebels Blamed for Deadly Shan State Blasts

By Lawi Weng 19 December 2013

RANGOON — Authorities have accused an ethnic Kokang armed group of planning a bomb blast that killed five people on Tuesday evening in northern Shan State.

An investigation is ongoing after a truck normally used to carry agricultural products blew up on the way to Kunlong town, about 10 miles from the Burma-China border, in an apparent bomb attack. But authorities have unofficially blamed Peng Jiashaung, the eldest son of well-known Kokang leader Peng Jiasheng and current chief of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), a Kokang rebel army that has a ceasefire with the government.

“Authorities are accusing this group at the moment,” said Haw Shauk Chan, a lawmaker from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (UNDP) representing Kunlong Township. He said the NDAA was active in the township but that police were continuing their investigation and had not yet officially filed charges.

The blast killed the truck driver, as well as a government soldier on the road. Two workers for the company Asia World were also killed as they carried out works on the road, as was a civil servant for the government’s ethnic border development project.

The frontier areas of Shan State are home to numerous ethnic armed groups. The Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), which is stationed near Kunlong, has signed a ceasefire agreement with the government, but sporadic fighting still breaks out and the group has in recent months complained of government army troops being deployed near rebel positions.

Fighting escalated this week in northern Shan State between government troops and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), another rebel group that represents the ethnic Palaung people. Unlike the NDAA and the SSA-N, the TNLA has not signed a ceasefire.

The TNLA reported several clashes over the past two weeks with the government army and says dozens of clashes have broken out since meeting in July with government negotiators for peace talks.

“Our troops have fought five times this month with the government. Most fighting occurred in Kutkai Township, and most of the clashes were small,” Mai Phone Kyaw, secretary of the TNLA, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday. “It will be difficult to have a nationwide ceasefire agreement if U Aung Min and Gen. Myint Soe cannot approve our ethnic demands.”

Aung Min is a minister from the President’s Office who is leading the government’s peace negotiation team, while Lt-Gen. Myint Soe oversees operations for the government army in Kachin State, which neighbors Shan State. The government hopes to consolidate individual ceasefire agreements into a nationwide ceasefire that would include all armed rebel groups, with peace talks planned next month in Karen State.

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) also reported clashes with the government army in Shan State’s Kutkai Township on Monday, but no casualties were reported, according to Kachinland News, a news agency that focuses on issues in Kachin State.

In October, a spate of mysterious small explosive devices—from time-detonated mines to hand grenades—exploded or were discovered around the country. Three people were killed and at least 10 were wounded by blasts in five states and divisions in a matter of weeks.

Burma’s police declared the bombings in October solved when they arrested eight suspects. Police claimed the suspects admitted they were paid to plant the bombs by ethnic Karen businessmen who wanted to sow instability and deter foreign investment.