Influential Shan leader found dead

Oct 13, 2009 (DVB), An influential former chairperson of the Shan State Army-North has been found dead from a gunshot wound at his house in northern Shan state, a source close to the Shan group said.

The body of 64-year-old Major-General Sai Nawng was found yesterday morning by a housemaid. The source said it was still unknown whether he committed suicide or was assassinated.

"A maid from his house found him dead upstairs with a gunshot wound around 6am in the morning," said the source. "There was a gun next to him but no one heard it being fired."

The source added that "enemies are spreading news that he committed suicide" while neighbours believe it to be an assassination.

The Shan Herald Agency for News quoted an officer who said the death remained shrouded in mystery.

"Most disturbing was the position of his pistol," he said. "It was lying in front instead of on his side, leading to suspicion that it could have been an assassination."

Sai Nawng, a combat veteran known for his tactical expertise, remained a patron of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) despite withdrawing from armed combat.

According to a friend of Sai Nawng, he had been in charge of the group's elite Battalion 22 before the SSA-N in 1991 signed a ceasefire agreement with the government.

Following the agreement, he became chairperson of the SSA-N, and was later reappointed as a patron of the group due to poor health.

He was also vice-chairperson of the Shan State Peace Council, an umbrella group consisting of the SSA-N and the Shan State National Army.

According to the source, police and military officials had arrived at the scene and his body was due to be taken to a mortuary.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew and AKT

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