Fighting broke out between the Shan State Army – South (SSA-S) and the Burma Army on Sunday, the first such clash this year, according to the SSA-S.
Sai La, SSA-S spokesperson, said their troops moving along the Loi Pangton mountain range in Mongton, ShanState, came under fire from about 100 combined forces. The assailants included members of the Burma Army 519 and 522 Light Infantry Battalions and an ethnic Lahu Border Guard Force unit, he said.
The spokesperson emphasised that since signing a state-level ceasefire agreement in early 2012, sporadic clashes have occurred largely because of a lack of clear demarcation between their respective territories. While fighting does occur despite the agreement, Sunday’s bout was the first such incident this year.
“As there was no specific demarcation, we continue to move about in the region normally, and at times we run into government army columns,” he said. Without clear boundaries and advance notice, mobilisation can lead to “brief, pre-emptive clashes”, he added. “But we have not seen large-scale fighting taking place.”
No casualties from Sunday’s clash have been reported. The SSA-S has informed the government’s Internal Peace Making Working Committee (IPMWC), which has been maintaining efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire agreement with Burma’s ethnic armed groups through several rounds of discussions with their respective leaders.
President’s spokesman Ye Htut, however, denied the government’s knowledge of the alleged attack. “We have no information about the incident,” he said.
Also in Shan State, the Ta-ang (Palaung) National Liberation Army (TNLA) claims the Burma Army has also attacked their troops, which were installed to carry out narcotic eradication in Namhsan, Manton and Kutkai townships – located in the state’s far north — and also in Mogok of Mandalay Division, which was within the Shan State boundaries up until the early 2000’s.
Ye Htut attributed attacks on the TNLA to the group’s alleged abuse of civilians, claiming that they entered government-controlled territories under the pretext of a drug eradication scheme, where they then forcibly recruited and extorted villagers.
“If they were really fighting drugs, then they should share some information with us, since we are working on the same objective,” said Ye Htut.
The TNLA reported causalities – of both their own and government troops — but DVB could not independently confirm the claim.
The government’s IPMWC and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team – a 13-member delegation representing 18 ethnic armed groups — are scheduled to meet in Rangoon on 8 March to resume peace negotiations.