Shan Ceasefire Signatory Seeks Answers After Burma Army Attack

By Lawi Weng 5 January 2016

RANGOON — A spokesman for the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) has said there may be “something wrong” with the nationwide ceasefire agreement inked in October if his group, one of the pact’s signatories, does not receive an explanation after coming under attack by the Burma Army on New Year’s Eve. Col. Sai Hla, who represents the SSA-S as well as speaking on behalf its political wing, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), said his group had sent letters to President’s Office Minister Aung Min and the commander of the Burma Army’s Eastern Command, informing them of the attack in Shan State’s Mongping Township on Thursday. The letters sought an explanation for the Burma Army assault, in which one SSA-S soldier was killed and another wounded. “They knew our ground forces are active in the area. Fighting has even broken out in the past there. After we signed the NCA [nationwide ceasefire agreement], we set up our base there as we intended to allow all our troops to be stationed together. But the Burma Army came to attack our base as they know we are based there,” Sai Hla told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. A meeting at the Eastern Command’s headquarters in Taunggyi is scheduled for Jan. 9-10, according to Sai Hla, who said leaders from both the SSA-S and Burma Army were expected to discuss last week’s altercation. “They may tell us [the reason for the attack] at the meeting at Eastern Command. If not, there is something wrong with the NCA, wherein we signed it already, but they still came to attack us,” the SSA-S spokesman said. Along with the government and Burma Army, the SSA-S is one of eight non-state armed groups that signed the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement on Oct. 15 in Naypyidaw. The group is active primarily in eastern and southern Shan State. The clash on Dec. 31 is the first time that fighting has broken out between government troops and one of the ceasefire signatories. About a dozen other ethnic armed groups, including some of the nation’s largest, have abstained from signing or have otherwise been denied the chance to join the peace accord. Non-signatories including the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Kachin Independence Army (KIA), as well as the fellow Shan rebel group known as the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), have clashed with government troops multiple times since the ceasefire signing.