Fresh fighting has erupted between Burmese government forces and the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), commonly known as Shan State Army-North, around the rebel stronghold of Kyethi Township in central Shan State.
An unknown number of local villagers have been forced to flee their homes and are currently sheltering in the woods since gunfire broke out on Tuesday, according to the Shan side, though no casualties have been reported.
SSPP spokesman Col. Sai La told DVB on Tuesday evening that some 300 Burmese troops from Eastern Central Regional Military Command encroached upon an area under control of the Shan State Army-North in Kyethi (known in Shan as Kehsi Mansam), and began attacking its positions, resuming hostilities that had remained dormant for the past several months.
“The Burmese army previously had about 100 troops in the area, but brought in reinforcements the other day from Mongzan and Kali,” he said. “With around 300 troops in total, they began firing at our positions between 7:30 and 8am this morning.”
He said the Shan’s 72d Brigade is currently defending their positions, and sporadic exchanges of gunfire could be still heard as of 11am on Tuesday.
Sai La said the SSPP has sent a letter to the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) complaining about the attack.
The UPWC is the government’s delegation that has sat through nearly two years of peace talks with an alliance of ethnic armed groups. Last week plans for a nationwide ceasefire among all 18 militias broke down.
A scaled-down ceasefire agreement involving no more than eight armed groups is slated to be signed on 15 October.
Declaring that it stood by the alliance’s earlier policy of only signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement that included all ethnic armed groups, the SSPP has declined to sign next week’s peace accord.
Its former ally, the Shan State Army-South, on Sunday said it would sign the ceasefire, making a total of eight militias.
The SSPP, a member of the armed coalition United Nationalities Federal Council, reached a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government in 2011-12.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA)on 6 October, Col. Sai La reportedly said he believed the attack on SSPP positions was in retribution for its decision not to join the ceasefire ceremony.
“I think this attack by the government is a threat, warning us to sign the NCA,” he told RFA.