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The Shan State Army-North is on high alert as the Burmese army reinforces troops inside the group’s territory in central Shan state.
After signing a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in January this year, the SSA-N has clashed with the Burmese troops more than 20 times, which includes several skirmishes that broke out between 17 June and 4 July near central Shan state’s Monghsu township.
The group’s spokesperson major Sai La said the Burmese army has been increasing their troop levels, which number in the hundreds, in the Mongook area where fighting erupted this summer as well as along the route to the group’s headquarters in Wanhai in southern Shan state.
“Previously, there were about 10 troops stationed at the outpost in Nampok and now the number has increased to about 100. Also, there are around 300 troops stretched out in Mongook [and] at Taunghyo and Lwehpapeng hills as well as a battalion positioned along the route south of our headquarters,” said Sai La.
The Burmese army already had about 10 battalions positioned within SSA-N territories prior to signing the ceasefire agreement. The SSA-N had asked the Burmese government to withdraw these units following the agreement, but the army continues to reinforce its existing personnel within these areas.
Sai La said the Burmese Army’s 149th Infantry Battalion and 150th Light Infantry Battalion about four days ago ordered SSA-N troops stationed near Monghsu township to withdraw from the area.
“That is one of the positions that we can’t afford to withdraw from – we already gave in to their demand to withdraw from the Mongook area,” said Sai La. “Since we can’t trust each other yet, we need to be cautious – we’ll have to open fire if they come forth.”
The SSA-N has written to Burmese union-level peace brokers several times in response to these hostilities, but the government has yet to directly address these grievances.
After signing a raft of ceasefire deals earlier in the year with armed ethnic groups across the country, Burmese troops continue to engage in brief skirmishes with the rebel armies, which observers say is a sign that the military isn’t always willing to live up to the agreements brokered by union politicians.
With talks between armies actively fighting the government stagnating, armed groups are openly vocalizing their weariness of the ongoing peace process.