The Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) has rejected a request from Myanmar’s military regime to withdraw troops from southern Shan State.
“It is not like we arrived in southern Shan State yesterday. Our Wan Hai headquarters are in southern Shan State,” said SSPP secretary Colonel Sai Hsu.
“They have been making demands. We only live in southern Shan State. Where are supposed to withdraw to?”
Lieutenant General Yar Pyae, chairman of the regime’s National Solidarity and Peace Negotiation Committee, and SSPP leaders met in Naypyitaw on March 31 and the armed group was told to withdraw its troops.
The meeting was attended by SSPP vice-chairman Sao Khin Hsai, Col Sai Hsu and some central executive committee members.
Junta media reported that the regime discussed de-escalation of the conflict in Shan State and urged the SSPP to cooperate in development work and ahead of a general election, which junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has promised to hold next year.
Col. Sai Hsu said the SSPP had not responded to the election request.
“We accepted their invitation. We made no comment about the election. They just talked about their plans,” he said.
The SSPP went to the capital to avoid fighting with the regime, said Col. Sai Hsu.
“Mainly we discussed how to avoid fighting. It is not our responsibility if fighting breaks out,” he said.
Tensions are growing as junta forces tail SSPP troop movements, said Col. Sai Hsu, who called on both sides to exercise restraint.
The SSPP and its rival Shan armed group, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), have been engaged in intense fighting over territory.
Both were formed to seek greater autonomy in Shan State with the RCSS based in the south and the SSPP in the north of the sprawling state.
In June last year, the SSPP, with the support of its Ta’ang National Liberation Army and United Wa State Army allies, attacked the RCSS, which was expanding into northern Shan State.
As defeated RCSS troops withdrew south, the SSPP followed them to Lawksawk in February, prompting the regime to ask the SSPP to withdraw back north.
The RCSS signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in 2015.