Tatmadaw Attacks RCSS Location in Mong Kung on Eve of Peace Conference

By Lawi Weng 10 July 2018

MON STATE — The Myanmar Army attacked a base of the RCSS/SSA-South in Shan State’s Mong Kung Township on Monday after warning the group to go back to its old base, according to local sources.

At noon, the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw)’s Light Infantry Battalion 569 launched an hour-long attack on the RCSS base, located in a forested area outside of the town.

“They came to attack our base,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Sai Oo, a spokesperson from the RCSS.

He said he had not yet received a ground report from his troops regarding casualties from yesterday’s fighting.

The Myanmar Army warned RCSS troops to return to their old bases from new areas in southern Shan that the Tatmadaw claims are not included in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

More Myanmar Army troops have been deployed in RCSS areas recently, and the Tatmadaw has engaged in some large troop movements according to the RCSS. Yesterday’s attack by the Myanmar Army was related to their warning from last week, according to the spokesperson.

The RCSS is among 10 ethnic armed groups that have signed the NCA in an effort to work with the government to establish peace in the country. However, tensions between the Myanmar Army and the RCSS are currently high.

According to Lt-Col Sai Oo, however, future developments “depend entirely on the Tatmadaw.”

He said the RCSS would try its best to resolve armed conflict through political dialogue as part of the ongoing peace process in the country.

“We have to fight back against them sometimes, as we cannot avoid their attacks. For our part, we will try our best to resolve political conflict in a peaceful way,” said Lt-Col Sai Oo.

With regard to the Myanmar Army’s warning to the RCSS to go back to its old bases, Lt-Col Sai Oo said that his troops are based solely in Shan State.

“Our troops were in the existing places, they were only in Shan State. Our troops did not move into other ethnic states,” he said.

The Myanmar Army and the RCSS have signed a bilateral agreement to establish a recognized border between their areas of control, but since the signing of the NCA, no action has been take to delineate the border. By warning it to return to its former areas, the Tatmadaw may be referring to Loi Tai Leng, where the RCSS has its headquarters.

“The RCSS has not set border line control areas. But they may want all of us to go back to stay at our headquarters,” he said.

The Myanmar government will begin holding the third 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference in Naypyitaw on Wednesday. The government has invited all ethnic armed groups that signed the NCA, along with some that have not yet signed, to attend the conference.

However, ethnic armed groups and political parties will not be able to discuss certain key political issues at the peace conference. Among the topics they will discuss are gender issues, such as how to achieve a 30 percent participation rate for women in politics. Regarding the issue of the right to secede from the Union, the ethnic armed groups and the Myanmar Army are at a disagreement. The Tatmadaw wants ethnic groups to promise they will never seek secession.

However, the ethnic armed groups disagree with this, fearing that making this concession will leave them vulnerable to rights abuses by the Myanmar Army. The Tatmadaw has refused to discuss self-determination as a federal issue at the conference if the ethnic armed groups do not make the promise.