Friday, 15 November 2019

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Junta orders closure of Shan office amid building tensions

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese military has ordered a Shan ethnic militia formerly under ceasefire to close its office in a northern Shan State town following a visit by high-ranking officers, a resident said.

The Shan State Army North (SSA-N) Tangyan Township, Lashio District, office has been closed since Tuesday last week, the resident said.

Joint Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Min Aung Hlaing, Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) No. 2 commander Major General Aung Than Htut and Military Affairs Security (MAS) chief Major General Kyaw Swe took a three-day tour of front-line bases in the east and north of Shan State on November 24.

Min Aung Hlaing who as head of BSO-2 oversaw last year’s operations against the ethnic Kokang armed group, also known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), when the Burmese government forces seized the Kokang capital, Laogai. The offensive prompted some 37,000 Sino-Kokang people to flee their homes and take refuge in China.

In further evidence of building tensions during the final week of last month, about 50 military trucks believed to be carrying artillery and supplies were seen travelling from Lashio to Kunlong Township, on the border of territories controlled by the SSA-N and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

The official ceasefire agreement between the SSA-N and Burmese junta forces ended on September 1, according to a senior Shan officer who requested anonymity.

Residents in Mongzang speculated that the Burmese junta was setting up artillery units in their township, southeast of the SSA-N Brigade 1 headquarters in Wanhai Township and another at Kali in Kunhing Township, in southern Shan State.

However SSA-S spokesman Sao Lao Hseng believed the junta already had sufficient artillery pieces in the area for an attack.

“The Burmese Army has already deployed artillery such as surface-to-air missiles and 120 millimetre guns [in the area]. Burmese troops had used those heavy weapons against the SSA-S in 2001 when the SSA-S raided the Burmese bases along the Shan-Thai border. The Burmese Army could use those weapons again if needed.”

A Thailand-based military observer said: “The aim of the reinforcement is to pressure the remaining ceasefire groups that refused to transform into border guard forces by cutting off supply and communications lines between the groups. However, in the current situation, the Burmese Army will not launch full-scale attacks against them.”

He added that the majority of ceasefire groups had no intention of fighting the Burmese Army over fears the ceasefire agreements would crumble.

The SSA-N last month joined a military alliance with other ethnic armed opposition groups; the Karen National Union, Karenni National Progressive Party, Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the New Mon State Party and the Chin National Front. The KIO heads the bloc, the purpose of which is to assist each other if the Burmese junta attacks any of its members.

The relationship between the SSA-N Brigade 1 and Naypyidaw started to sour after the group refused to transform into a Border Guard Force, and therefore place itself under Burmese Army command. Four clashes have occurred between the two sides between September and last month.


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