Burma: Why does battles maintain in Shan State?
Political stability in Burma’s Shan state looks as if insecure as the government’s army is keen on fighting rather than empowering peace talks. The ceasefire agreement between Naypyitaw and SSPP/SSA was signed on 28 January 2012; however, it seems sham and false since the government’s soldiers never stop their operations so far.
Analysts believe seeking temporary ceasefire with some ethnic armed groups including Shan State Army by the government seems to welcome foreign direct investment, rather than genuine peace.
The Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) has lost its camp at Red Ruby Mountain in Mongsu, southern Shan State after heavy attacks by the Burma Army, according to Shan Herald Agency for News on 19 June.
An SSA-N commander at the frontline said, “The Burma Army started attacking us at Ruby Mountain in Mong-su on June 11, 2014. They fired at us with heavy shells for two days, so local people were affected by the fierce battle. On the order of our headquarters, we withdrew from the camp.”
He also said that the Burma Army forced people to work as their porters and human shields at the frontline. The SSA troops were requested by the people not to ambush and shoot at the frontline.
“If we attacked, the villagers and porters would have got gunshot,” spokesperson of SSA/SSPP Major Sai Hla said.
The Burma Army has recently deployed more troops in northern Shan State around SSA-N and United Wa State Army (UWSA). The situation is still tense between the two sides, according to Shan News.
Moreover, on June 18, a column of government army troops took control of an outpost controlled by the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) a group consisting of ethnic Ta'ang (or Palaung) who are allied with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), referring a KIA officer based in northern Shan state, Kachin News Group said.
The Ngaw-Nga outpost is located in the Nampaka area of Kutkai township in north west Shan state, near the route of the Shwe gas pipeline in territory long held by the KIA's 4th Brigade. TNLA forces withdrew from the post at about 10 pm local time after Burma army units from Infantry Battalion No. 123 and No. 145 launched repeated attacks, the KIA officer said.
On 25 June, a clash was broke out between joint forces of TNLA, KIA and MNDAA (Ko-kant Army) and Division 88 of government army near Nant-sai-bar village, Mong-koe sub-township, Muse district of northern Shan State. The government army launched an offensive against joint forces of TNLA, KIA and MNDAA troops. Both sides used heavy weapons shelling on each other.
During combats on 25-26 June, joint forces of TNLA, KIA and MNDAA had confiscated several weapons and ammunitions from government soldiers including heavy-guns RPGs and 60 mm. Five government soldiers were killed and no casualties from ally forces.
In addition, there were also two clashes between TNLA and government army in Kyauk-me township. This was the third fighting in a day, TNLA New and Information Department said.
Looking back into last year, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) said in a statement dated 5 April 2013 that atrocities by Burmese troops in a new military operation against the Shan State Army North have caused over 1,000 villagers, from 16 villages in Tang-yan, to flee from their homes during the two-week time.
Since February 2013, thousands of Burmese troops and artillery have been deployed to pressure the SSA-N to withdraw from its territories along the Salween River, near Tangyan. There have been armed clashes, and Burmese troops have been laying land mines and committing human rights violations against local civilians, the statement says.
Although peace talks are taking place, there seems to be no end in sight in the war against the ethnic rebels, especially in Kachin and the Shan states. For instance, the President Thein Sein Government has reached a truce with the Shan State Army (SSA), but the Government Army seems no notice of the agreement.
Despite signing a ceasefire agreement with Naypyitaw, the Shan State Progress Party / Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) has often facing military threat made by the Government Army, referring local sources, Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) said.
Remarkably in February-March 2013, the government army’s order SSA troops to depart from its mountain bases west of the Salween River. SSA refused and armed conflict occurred. The fight had claimed more than 100 casualties on both sides including the local inhabitants.
On March 17, 2014, a report by the Shan Human Rights Foundation was released expressing government’s army shelling of villages, torture, looting that caused two thousand villagers to flee their homes near Chinese pipelines in Northern Shan State.
According to SHRF, more than one thousand government troops fired shells and sprayed gunfire into villages in Nawng-Khio Township. Soldiers severely tortured a villager, and looted livestock, causing about 2,000 villagers from eleven villages to flee their homes on March 1-2, 2014. The attack on villagers occurred at a place just 10 miles far-off from Chinese oil and gas pipelines which pass through northern Shan State.
The SHRF recent report stated, noting that fortunately there were no causalities caused by the attacks. Because of the shelling and shooting, about 2,000 people, most of the inhabitants of the following villages, fled from their homes during March 1st and 2nd 2014. People fled to neighboring villages, including to Kio Arng, about 6-7 miles away. Some fled with bullock carts, others on trucks.
Shan Women’s Action Network (SHAN) primarily demands for a real ceasefire and to honor the terms of agreements made between the government and ethic armed groups. It also demands moving forward of the peace process in order to have a genuine peace that all the people are wishing. It is necessary that clashes to be stopped and government must pull out its armed forces from all recent deployment positions during the conflicts, the right group told Shan Herald Agency for News.
As a result, the ceasefire agreement between Naypyitaw and SSPP/SSA on 28 January 2012 looks like invalid for Burma’s armed forces. Then, mistrust arises that the government's temporary ceasefire agreements with ethnic armed groups seem to draw the international backing, rather than genuine peace.
At present, Burma Army's actions are not likely supporting the peace process by its government. If the army did not change its course by peace process, the people would consider the president's reform plans as a charade. The consequences of the army's two-faced acts will push the country into an extra insufficiency.
Now is the time for peace-loving citizens to call foreign governments’ condemnation on these attacks and atrocities by the Burma Army. International Community needs to make further engagement with the U Thein Sein government finding a political solution to the conflict in the country where no sign of democracy thus far.
- Asian Tribune -