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Hundreds of local residents have petitioned Burmese President Thein Sein to immediately withdraw troops from several villages in Shan State, claiming that an increased military presence over the past two months has led to staggering displacement and property damages.
In a letter addressed to the president and copied to the commander-in-chief, peacemakers and regional politicians, villagers from Ke See Township requested that “the Burmese army troops who have occupied our house compounds withdraw from Pasaung, and for the government to provide compensation for the destruction of our property, crops and livestock.”
The villagers said that 422.5 acres of farmland have been destroyed, and that conflicts have resulted in indefinite displacement of nearly 300 villagers from Wan Pasaung alone, who are still sheltering in neighbouring Wan Warp.
The occupation began on 26 June, the villagers said, and fighting continued for several days. The letter states that during that time, fences were destroyed, animals were killed and villagers were tormented. In one account, “a deaf villager was beaten and kicked when he was unable to hear an order from the troops.”
Intensity of the sudden conflict was enough to prompt an alliance of Shan organisations to write to US Secretary of State John Kerry on 7 August, requesting that he bring the matter to the attention of the president.
Kerry arrived in Burma on 9 August, and left with no indication that the issue of ceasefire-violating military actions had been discussed with the president.
The US has stated the intention to enhance non-combat military-to-military cooperation with Burma geared towards promoting human rights and building emergency response capacity.
Pasaung, located in the central part of the eastern state, is controlled by the Shan State Army – North, an ethnic armed group that entered into a new ceasefire agreement with the government in January 2012. On-the-ground sources, however, claim that conflict has not abated despite progress towards a nationwide ceasefire agreement.