Shan MP Asks Govt to Cease Army Operations in Northern Shan State

By Lawi Weng 16 July 2014

RANGOON — A Shan ethnic lawmaker in the Lower House asked the Burmese government on Tuesday to cease military operations in Kyaythee Township in northern Shan State, where several hundred villagers have been displaced after fighting between the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North) and the Burma Army has recently escalated.

Sai Um Hseng Mong, an MP with the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), said he received a letter from his constituents in Kyaythee Township asking him for help in requesting an end to the operations.

“A lot of farmers who are there are having problems. They say they could not grow paddy as there is fighting even though it is the paddy-growing season. So they asked me to discuss this issue in Parliament,” he said.

Sai Um Hseng Mong asked the government to explain the situation in northern Shan State in an urgent parliamentary meeting on Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Minister Maj-Gen. Kyaw Nyunt replied that the Burma Army had been holding operations in the area to flush out rebels who had supposedly been reinforcing their troops and recruiting soldiers among local Shan villagers, according to Sai Um Hseng Mong.

According to government mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar, the minister also “explained that the commander-in-chief of the defense services has always strived for regional peace and stability, expressing his understanding that civilians are innocent victims of clashes.”

The newspaper said Kyaw Nyunt “pledged prompt action by watching [sic] the incident in question closely.”

It remains unclear what the steps the Defense Ministry, which is directly controlled by a Burma Army general, will do to address the SNDP lawmaker’s concerns.

More than 200 Shan villagers have been displaced by the fighting in recent weeks and they are hiding in a local monastery, local villagers and aid workers have said.

Three weeks after the fighting erupted, tension remains high in the area around Pha Saung village, with government soldiers reportedly still present at the village.

The SSA-North is one the largest ethnic armed groups in Shan State, and although it has had a bilateral ceasefire with the Burmese government since 2012 hundreds of skirmishes and clashes have been reported since.

The SSA-North has claimed that Burma Army units has attempted to enter rebel-held areas and has taken several rebel bases in recent months. Northern Shan State has also been the scene of frequent clashes and Burma Army operations against Kachin, Palaung and Kokang rebel troops recently.

The fighting continues despite the government’s publicly stated goal of wanting a nationwide ceasefire with more than a dozen ethnic armed groups, including the SSA-North, in the coming months.