Rebels, Army Meet to Stem Violence in Northern Shan State

By Nyein Nyein 21 February 2013

The Shan State Army North (SSA-N) and the Burmese military fought escalating skirmishes in northern Shan State in the past few days, but a Shan rebel spokesman said an emergency meeting between regional rebel and government commanders had stemmed the violence.

SSA-N peace working committee member Major Naw Lae and the group’s Lashio liaison office coordinator met with Northeastern Regional Military Commander General Aung Soe in the town of Lashio to discuss the recent skirmishes, said SSA-N Maj Sai La.

“The attacks here stopped today,” Sai Lai said by telephone from an ethnic rebel hilltop post called Loila on Thursday. “The commander general [Aung Soe] promised to hold the fighting,” he added.

The SSA-N reached a ceasefire with the government in January 2012, but sporadic skirmishes between rebel fighters and government soldiers have continued, mostly near the Mandalay-Muse road in Namtu, Hseni and Mongmao townships. Between January and August 2012, rebels reported at least 30 incidents, which they say had risen to a total of about 100 by February.

On Tuesday and Wednesday clashes escalated after government troops “suddenly” attacked the SSA-N Battalion 192 base at Loila and even launched artillery attacks on the hilltop, Sai La alleged.

“Their troops are still deployed at the base of Loilan hill post, where our troops are stationed,” he said. “So we are ready in case another round of attacks comes.” He claimed that the government’s Light Infantry Battalion 322 from Lao Kai base and Infantry Battalion 33 from Tangyan base were involved in the operations.

The SSA-N spokesman said it was unclear why the government troops attacked Loilan hilltop. He added however, that the operations had coincided with the SSA-N unit 192’s attempt to relocate their families on farms in a new village near Loilan.

The SSA-N has no more direct ceasefire meetings planned with the government, but the group is a member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of 11 ethnic armed groups that met with government peace negotiators in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Wednesday.

The SSA-N spokesman Sai La said however, that on the ground in northern Shan State the situation remained volatile. “If attack continues, we are far away from the genuine peace,” he said.