At least five people are dead after fresh fighting broke out this week in Shan state, once again spotlighting the fragility of ceasefires signed recently between the Burmese government and ethnic armies.
Clashes between Burmese troops and the Shan State Army–South (SSA-S) were ongoing as of yesterday afternoon. The two sides encountered one another in a village tract outside of Tachilek township, which lies on the border with Thailand.
Major Sai Lao Hseng, spokesperson for the SSA-S, said the fighting broke out after the Burmese army pressured the group to pull back its troops to the border. He claims however that there had been no stipulation in the ceasefire agreement that it withdraw to the Mongtaw and Monghta regions.
“They threatened to open fire on us if we didn’t leave and then actually did fire at us,” he said. Two personnel from the SSA–S and three Burmese soldiers died.
Clashes also took place on 18 and 21 February also close to Tachilek, despite an initial ceasefire being signed between the two sides on 16 January. Sai Lao Seng claims that at least 10 fire fights have broken out this month alone.
The Shan army has sent a letter to Aung Min, the government’s railway minister who is spearheaded peace talks with ethnic armies. The group asserts that the clashes occurred because of the Burmese army’s aggression.
The SSA’s conflict with the central government stretches back nearly half a century. Shortly after it was formed in 1964 it split into two factions, with what came be known as the Shan State Army–North (SSA-N) allying itself with the government.
The SSA-S has voiced concern about the finer details of their agreement with Naypyidaw’s ‘peace-making committee’, which includes allowing Burmese troops to pass through their territory given prior permission.
The group also warned recently that any ceasefire would be meaningless unless the military ends abuse of civilians in the volatile eastern state, which for decades has shouldered the burden of armed conflict and the fallout from its status as a lucrative source of narcotics.