Tensions Grow between Govt and SSA-South

By Kyaw Kha 2 March 2013

Tensions are rising between the Shan State Army-South (SSA-South) and the Burmese army after the latter urged the Shan rebel group to leave two of its front-line outposts, according to SSA-South sources.

Maj Sai Lao Hseng, the spokesperson for the SSA-South, told The Irrawaddy that his group was told to move its troops from their stations on Loi Lien and Loi Moh Nan Lien hills, located in Ho Meng and Mong Htar sub-townships, respectively, by Feb. 28 at the latest. The SSA-South, however, has refused to comply, he said.

“What they [the Burmese army] want is our troops scattered in different places to be together,” said the SSA-South spokesperson. “If we leave one place, then we will be asked to leave another one.”

Even before an initial ceasefire agreement between the SSA-South and the Burmese government, the SSA-South had reportedly been moving around in the areas where the contentious outposts are situated.

Sai Lao Hseng said the current tension between the two armies is unlikely to lead to any armed clash as his group is trying its best to calm down the situation.

He added that over 50 clashes have occurred since the signing of an initial ceasefire agreement on Dec. 2, 2011, most as a result of government troops going beyond their boundaries.

According to the agreement, troops from both armies are supposed to move around in their designated areas and prior information is needed when and if one side goes into the other’s territory. However, an official from the SSA-South’s Anti-Narcotics Task Force told The Irrawaddy that the Burmese army routinely ignore that condition of the ceasefire.

“Some [government] troops entered the SSA-South’s territory without prior notice so clashes broke out,” said the official. “Sometimes they informed us before they came in, but then they went to a different place.”

The SSA-South spokesperson said a fight between the two armies took place in Kholam sub-township on Feb. 24. Two officers and three privates from the government side died, and a number of his fellow soldiers were also wounded, he said.

That battle, he added, occurred only five days after the talks were held between an SSA-South delegation led by its commander Lt-Gen Yawd Serk and a government peace team led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min

That incident was also due to Burmese troops entering SSA-controlled area without prior notice, he added.

The SSA-South was able to seize six rifles and two pistols during the clash but has already contacted their counterparts to return them.