State Media: ‘Combined Operations’ Launched in Shan State

By Saw Yan Naing 24 February 2016

An article in state-run media proclaimed on Wednesday that the Burma Army was conducting “combined operations in Shan State,” the scene of recent hostilities between two ethnic armed groups.

However, the article in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, based on an announcement from the defense ministry on Tuesday, did not explain what “combined operations” involved, nor explicitly which armed group was targeted, though the Shan State Army-South was singled out for operating outside its “designated” territory.

Fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) first flared in November last year but intensified earlier this month. Clashes were reported in at least two townships in northern Shan State, Kyaukme and Namkham, leading to the displacement of thousands of civilians.

The Ta’ang armed group has accused government troops of cooperating with the SSA-S—allegations repeatedly denied by the latter force. The Global New Light of Myanmar article on Wednesday indicated that the Shan force had in fact been rebuked by the Burma Army over the recent fighting.

The article states that the commander of North Eastern Command, which is based in Lashio, “sent a letter of complaint denouncing the acts of [the SSA-S]” and requested the group return to its “designated” territory—a request that was reportedly refuted.

Hla Maung Shwe, a senior leader of the Myanmar Peace Center, denied on Wednesday that any combined military operation had been launched but did confirm that a letter had been sent to the SSA-S reminding them to respect the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

The SSA-S, also referred to by its political wing, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), was one of eight armed groups that inked the pact in October last year, while the TNLA did not.

“The Tatmadaw [Burma Army] wants the RCSS and TNLA to return to their respective territories. Otherwise, the Tatmadaw will clear them out. It is not a joint operation,” Hla Maung Shwe said.

He speculated that the Shan armed group’s reply to the Burma Army’s original letter may have been misinterpreted.

On Monday, representatives of the Myanmar Peace Center, including chief peace negotiator Aung Min, alongside former lieutenant general Khin Zaw Oo, met with RCSS leaders in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to discuss the ongoing clashes.