By Zin Linn
Although peace talks are taking place, there seems to be no end in sight in the war against the ethnic rebels, especially in Kachin State and the Shan State. For instance, the President Thein Sein Government has reached a truce with the Shan State Army (SSA), but the Burma Army is reluctant to accept the agreement.
The Shan State Progress Party / Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) that had signed the ceasefire agreement with Naypyitaw on 28 January 2012 is now facing another military campaign launched by the Burma Army, referring local sources, Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) said.
The campaign which began late last month, following the Burma Army’s order to move out from its mountain bases west of the Salween on 26 March, has already claimed more than 100 casualties on both sides plus the local inhabitants.
Regional peace talks in Taunggyi, Shan State (South), were held between the government’s Union-level peacemaking group and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP)/ Shan State Army peace-making group on 28 January 2012.
According to the government’s media, both sides signed a five-point groundwork agreement and exchanged the notes.
The five agreement points are as follow: (1) To build peace, the preliminary agreement signed between Shan State peacemaking group and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) in Taunggyi on 28 January, 2012 shall be approved. (2) To do concerted efforts ensuring non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty at all times based on Panglong spirit. (3) To arrange improvement of livelihood and sociolife of Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) members and their families in line with law in cooperation with the government shall be made. (4) To cooperate with the Union government in a fight against narcotic drugs shall be made. (5) To launch further discussions and negotiations ensuring eternal peace.
Even though there is a truce between government’s peace-making team and the SSPP/SSA peace-making group, hostilities have been taking place sporadically in Shan State.
According to a statement dated 5 April 2013 by Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), atrocities by Burmese troops in a new military operation against the Shan State Army North (SSA-N) have caused over 1,000 villagers, from 16 villages in Tang-yan, to flee from their homes during the past two weeks.
Since February, 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.
On March 27, 2013, two villagers from Wan Kong Saai, Loi Jay tract, Tangyan township, who had been forcibly conscripted as porters, were killed by Burma Army landmines. They are Loong Laai Hseng, a village headman, aged 53, and Loong Kham, aged 40, SHRF said.
Thus, the ceasefire agreement between Naypyitaw and SSPP/SSA on 28 January 2012 seems to be on paper only. Some analysts deem it will be of benefit to military-backed President Thein Sein government. Furthermore, the real aim of seeking temporary ceasefire by the government seems to ease economic sanctions, rather than genuine peace.
Coincidently, conflict between Burma’s military and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) continued in north eastern Shan state in last week of March, according to the Kachin News Group. KIA’s 10th Battalion under 1st Brigade fought against a combined force of Burmese army units and Border Guard Force near near Pangwa on March 25. A series of skirmishes took place in Kachin and northern Shan State despite government officials declaring that war has been stopped between government troops and ethnic armies. Local sources reported that reinforcement of government troops and transportation of military supplies to frontline areas has continued in the recent weeks.
On 28 March, heavy clashes took place at Kawng-Woi-Bum mountain in the Gang-Mying region, as said by a senior officer with the 4th Brigade of the KIO’s armed-wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) stationed near to where the fighting took place. The clashes which lasted for more than 3 hours were limited to small arms fire.
The Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) have agreed to continue their unfinished talks on a permanent ceasefire some time in end of this April. The last meeting on topic of military positions between two armies was held in the Chinese border town of Ruili on 11 March 2013.
Although President Thein Sein’s reformist government has repeatedly declared to establish long-lasting peace in Kachin State, its military has recently sent large numbers of troops into Kachin Independence Army (KIA) controlled areas in northern Shan state and Kachin state, including Pangwa, Waingmaw township and Bhamo district, the Kachin News Group has informed.
Fighting between the KIA and government forces has repeatedly occurred in northern Shan state over the last few week in territory held by the KIA’s 4th Brigade.
Hence, even though some ceasefire talks are held between the rebel groups and the government there has been little actual progress. As the military-backed regime has hastily attempted to escape from sanctions, it tries to obtain more foreign recognition through peace-talks with the ethnic rebels. However, the government seems unwilling to control its armed forces in line with its peace policy.