The Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) has clashed with Burmese government forces in Mong Kung Township in central Shan State, compelling hundreds of local families to flee their homes.
According to SSA-S spokesperson Col. Sai La, the Burmese army provoked the firefight on Saturday when it raided what the Shan militia claims was a drug rehabilitation camp in Tonlaung village-tract, which was operating under its supervision.
“Burmese soldiers based in Namlan, Wanli and Mong Kung laid siege to the drug rehab facility we established in coordination with local people, so we had to defend it,” said Sai La, adding that the clashes continued sporadically over the weekend.
Although the situation was still described as tense on Monday, there were no further reports of clashes.
The SSA-S, officially known as the Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army or RCSS/SSA, has an estimated troop strength of 6,000-8,000 fighters and is led by Lt-Gen Yawd Serk. On 15 October last year, it was one of eight armed groups that signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government. However, fighting has broken out frequently between the two sides since the accord was signed nearly a year ago.
The SSA-S spokesman speculated that the Burmese army may have attacked the rehabilitation camp on Saturday because it mistook the facility for a recruitment centre. Burmese troops subsequently detained 50 civilians who had been receiving treatment for drug addiction at the camp, he said.
The SSA-S claims that it killed three government soldiers in action on Sunday afternoon in a retaliatory assault against the Burmese unit. It did not, however, provide any details of casualties suffered in its own ranks.
Sai La said the SSA-S has reached out to the government’s Joint-Monitoring Committee, as well as to the Burmese military’s Eastern Command in Taunggyi in an attempt to defuse tensions. The Eastern Command apparently responded that it was unaware of any conflict situation, suggesting that the attack could have been carried out by army units on the ground at their own discretion.
Meanwhile, Sai Seng Mai, a Shan Nationalities League for Democracy MP representing Mong Kung in the lower house, said on Monday that more than 900 local residents from Panpwe and Kontha villages in the conflict zone had been displaced and were currently sheltering at Buddhist monasteries in Tonlaung.
Burma’s state media on Tuesday reported the number of IDPs in Tonlaung has reached up to 2,000, and that local schools have been closed indefinitely.