SSA-N Rejects Defense Ministry Accusation That They Attacked Burma Army

By Lawi Weng 24 January 2017

RANGOON — Ethnic armed group Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) hit back at a Ministry of Defense report that the group attacked Burma Army troops as they destroyed a poppy plantation in Mong Hsu Township, Shan State on Sunday.

Col. Sai Phone Han of the SSA-N told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that in fact the Burma Army attacked SSA-N bases in Mong Hsu Township.

“It is propaganda from the defense ministry,” he said. “It is not true that they came to destroy poppies, they attacked our bases and we fought them off.”

A defense ministry statement on Jan. 21 reported that the Burma Army and police were destroying poppy fields when they were attacked three times by SSA-N troops.

The Burma Army ordered the SSA-N to withdraw from two bases in Mong Hsu Township by Jan. 19 but SSA-N leaders maintained that the land belonged to them and the two sides clashed on Sunday.

Locals have reported a recent buildup of SSA-N troops but Col. Sai Phone Han said the situation was stable. “We have had two days without fighting,” he said.

The SSA-N did not sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) but did sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government in 2012.

Clashes between the armed group and government troops continue, however, including a major government offensive against the SSA-N headquarters in Wan Hai in 2015.

The National League for Democracy-led government is slated to hold the second 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference in February, though the date is not yet confirmed.

Conflicts have increased in recent months with ongoing clashes in Muse and Kutkai townships in northern Shan State between the Burma Army and the Northern Alliance—a coalition of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA).

A total of eight Burma Army soldiers were killed and more than ten wounded in a four-hour firefight with the TNLA in Kutkai Township, Shan State on Monday in which the Burma Army reportedly used two helicopters, according to the TNLA.

The ministry of defense reported that one KIA member was killed and ammunition was seized in a clash in Muse Township on Sunday.