Shan Army Agrees to Base Withdrawal

By Lawi Weng 5 July 2012

The Shan State Army-North (SSA-North) has agreed to withdraw from two of its military bases at the request of the Burmese government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) in order to avoid conflict during the ongoing peace talks.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Sai La, the spokesperson for the SSA-North, said, “We are taking into consideration the interests of local farmers who need to sow rice at this time of year. If the conflict continues they will be forced from their farms.”

He said that the SSA-North will continue monitoring the situation on the ground as it withdraws its bases as per the agreement.

The military bases involved are the Kunnamile Base in Monghsu Township, southern Shan State, and to the east, Loi Pha Pheung, a mountain base near the Salween River. The agreement comes following talks between the two sides in Mandalay on June 22.

Sai La said the SSA-North leadership was holding a meeting on Thursday morning to discuss logistics for the withdrawal of troops, including plans to relocate the families of soldiers, a total of some 1,000 civilians at the two bases.

Naypyidaw reformed the UPWC after a reshuffle in May, endowing it with more powers in taking an active role in the peace talks with the various ethnic armed groups. The new committee is led by President Thein Sein. The UPWC has met with SSA-North leaders several times for negotiations despite the ongoing fighting.

“Having permanent peace in Burma will depend on the sincerity of the government,” said Sai La.

Several observers have voiced doubts over Naypyidaw’s intentions, pointing to the continued build-up of troops in conflict zones, most recently in Shan and Kachin states.

Even as the SSA-North announced its agreement to move bases, Sai La said, Burmese government forces were attacking another Shan outpost with artillery fire just the day before.

The Shan Herald Agency for News reported on Tuesday that the Central Eastern Region Commander Gen Tun Tun Naung is personally directing the operation from Monghsu.