BURMA: Tension flares up between junta, ceasefire groups after confrontations
The following article is reprinted with permission from Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.), Thailand.
Tension flares up between Burma’s junta, ceasefire groups after confrontations
By Hseng Khio Fah
September 16, 2010 17:18
Tensions between the Burma Army and ceasefire groups on the Sino-Burma border have dramatically accelerated following a clash between the Burma Army and Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’ two days ago, sources from both local and the Sino-Burma border reported.
“It is a spontaneous action. The atmosphere is getting more strained. The ceasefire sides have increased their security especially at their main bases facing Burma Army bases,” an informed source from the border said.
On 14 September, at 17:40 (local time), a clash took place between a patrol of Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’s First Brigade led by Lieutenant Hseng Harn and a Burma Army patrol from Infantry Battalion (IB) #147, based in Shan State North’s Khaihsim (its main base is in Nawngkaw in Namtu Township) near Nam Phak Tope village, Tonkeng village tract, Hsipaw township, between Hsipaw and Lashio, Shan State North capital. The SSA had one fighter wounded, according to an SSA officer.
Local villagers from the area reported three died on the Burma Army side. “We can’t confirm the report,” he said.
The First Brigade was said to have been told by the Burma Army to stay within its boundary and not to cross north of the Mongyai-Tangyan motor road. Mongyai is located in the north of the First Brigade main bases, Tangyan in the northeast, Monghsu in the southeast and Kehsi in the South.
The SSA is now conducting intensive check on everyone who enters its controlled areas and has also deployed more fighters to safeguard motor roads around its main base Wanhai such as Tangyan-Monghsu and Lashio-Monghsu motor roads.
Besides the SSA, latest tension between the Burma Army and United Wa State Army (UWSA) is taking place at Burma Army’s strongest base Loi Panglong, northwest of the Wa headquarters Panghsang, and near Manghseng.
Meanwhile, the Mongla-based National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) is at loggerheads with the Burma Army over the control of Loi Pangnao, the second highest mountain in Shan State. It is 8,542 ft high. The highest one is Loi Leng, 8,777 ft, located in Mongyai Township. “Each is telling the other to stay off the mountain and neither is leaving,” said a source close to the group.
“Another point of contention is taking place at Taping, the crossing of the Lwe, which marks the natural boundary between Burma Army and NDAA,” a businessman whose truck runs between Kengtung and Mongla. “Both sides are closely checking traffic going across the river.”
The Northeastern Region Command has reportedly ordered its units to be on a 24-hour standby including its civilian personnel. The same instruction was, earlier this month, given to the civilian personnel in areas along the Thai-Burma border as well.
Tensions between the Burma Army and ceasefire groups, the UWSA, Kachin Independence Army (KIA), SSA ‘North’ and the NDAA have been soaring up since the junta’s latest deadline for the groups to disarm had expired on 1 September. Both sides have been reinforcing their troops on heightened alert after none of them accepted the junta’s plan.
The military junta says any group that failed to surrender by the deadline will automatically become “an unlawful association.” When Naypyitaw attacked Kokang in August, it first of all declared the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) an unlawful organization.
There are only 4 groups (3 and a quarter according to some): Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDAK), Karenni Nationalities Peoples Liberation Front (KNPLF) and Kachin Defense Army (KDA) agreed to the BGF program. The MNDAA, better known as Kokang, was attacked in August 2009 after a faction led by Bai Xuoqian agreed to accept it.
A border watcher based on the Sino-Burma analyst observes tensions have drastically mounted soon after junta chief Than Shwe’s return from China. “We don’t know whether a secret deal between the two countries has been reached over their shared border,” he said.
According to an Asia Times report, two points stood out from Senior General Than Shwe’s highly anticipated visit: China’s overt and unequivocal support for the elections, and Myanmar’s assurance that security would be maintained during and after the polls. The latter is of special concern to Beijing due to heightened tensions between Myanmar’s government and ethnic insurgent groups along their shared and strategically significant border.