Military tensions are escalating between the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and Myanmar’s regime in Mong Hsu Township, southern Shan Township, as junta reinforcements arrive in the town, according to residents.
At least 16 trucks full of troops and seven armored vehicles have arrived in Mong Hsu and around three armored vehicles reached Tangyan north of Mong Hsu since Monday, sources said.
“The regime has a battalion in Mong Hsu town and a tactical unit in Mong Paw forest. Many more troops have been sent from the Central Eastern Command. The two sides are preparing to fight. The SSPP will fight back if it is attacked,” said a Mong Hsu resident.
The regime is expected to target Lwel Nai village to the north of Mong Hsu where the SSPP has three bases.
“The area is controlled by the SSPP and is strategically important as a crossing of the Salween River. It appears that the regime will attack and the SSPP is preparing,” said the resident.
The junta’s National Solidarity and Peace Negotiation Committee led by Lieutenant General Yar Pyae met SSPP leaders at Mong Nawng where the North Western Command is based on July 14 and told the armed group to remove its bases in Lwel Nai by July 21.
The SSPP refused.
Shan news agencies close to the SSPP reported that the regime has redeployed three battalions from Lashio, Kengtung and Kholam near Lwel Nai.
The SSPP has deployed three battalions in Lwel Nai and clashes could break out any time, they reported.
The SSPP’s Facebook page on Tuesday posted a video warning of aerial attacks.
The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the SSPP.
There have been reports that the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the most powerful ethnic minority armed group in Myanmar and an ally of the SSPP, has sent troops to Lwel Nai.
The UWSA’s liaison officer in Lashio, refused to comment.
A Shan analyst said SSPP and UWSA troops appear to be determined to repulse any junta attack to the west of the Salween.
“The UWSA and SSPP will not attack but they will fight back decisively. Any fighting will be much worse than in Rakhine State. The UWSA has much more ammunition than the Arakan Army,” the analyst told The Irrawaddy.
On July 18, a six-year-old boy and his parents were killed by the regime in Mong Hsu Township.
Mong Hsu resident, who asked for anonymity, said: “There has never been safety for residents. People will flee if clashes happen.”