SSA-N Official: ‘We Will Not Let Them Take Our Headquarters’
By Lawi Weng 26 November 2015
WAN HAI, KYETHI TOWNSHIP, Shan State — Amid ongoing hostilities between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) in central Shan State, the ethnic armed group has pledged it will not relinquish its Wan Hai headquarters.
“We withdrew from three places already in order to show the UPWC [Union Peacemaking Working Committee] that we wanted to have peace. But after [the Burma Army] took three places from us, they keep asking us to withdraw our troops based in Mong Nawng and Mong Hsu,” Major Sai Phone Han of the SSA-N told The Irrawaddy.
Fighting between the Burma Army and the Shan armed group first broke out on Oct. 6 and ongoing clashes have been reported in Mong Hsu, Kyethi and Mong Nawng townships, including near the SSA—N’s headquarters in Wan Hai.
“We are not deploying a lot of troops at our frontline but we are still attacking them. Our last defensive battle will be at our headquarters,” Sai Phone Han said.
“We will not let them take our headquarters. We will not accept them asking us to withdraw our troops.”
Another SSA-N major, Sai Pah Tun, said the Burma Army was endeavoring to gain more territory before a new government comes to power in Burma in early 2016, while also targeting the armed group for not signing the “nationwide” ceasefire agreement inked between Naypyidaw and eight non-state armies on Oct. 15.
“We have found that they have three objectives in attacking us. One is they want to punish us for not signing the NCA. The second is they want to take more territory under their control. And the third is they want to destroy our Shan State Progressive Party,” Major Sai Pah Tun said.
Wan Hai village in Kyethi Township hosts around 1,500 houses. Although many have fled in the face of Burma Army attacks in the area, at least some local residents could be seen walking through the village on Tuesday and there was a small ceremony at a local monastery.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the fighting in Shan State has displaced around 6,000 people since early October, though locals have claimed that figure could be as high as 10,000.
A member of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), the SSA-N’s political wing, showed The Irrawaddy two Buddhist monasteries that he claimed were damaged in attacks by the Burmese air force on Nov. 10, just two days after the country’s general election.
The guide said the Burma Army may have targeted the monasteries in the belief that SSPP leaders would take shelter there.
A government delegation led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min met with SSPP representatives, including the party’s vice-chairman, in Rangoon on Nov. 23-24.
The two sides discussed implementing the bilateral ceasefire agreement that was concluded in January 2012 and provisionally agreed to relocate some troops from either side of the Mong Nawng-Mong Hsu road in Mong Hsu Township.
Additional reporting by Kyaw Kha in Rangoon.