A recent raid on a rebel liaison office in Kengtung, Shan State, seriously undermined Burma’s peace process, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) said on Wednesday.
Marking the 56th anniversary of the Shan resistance on 21 May, the ethnic political body issued a public statement condemning the action and the central government’s sluggish response to what they consider an extreme breach of trust.
The RCSS claims that on 6 May, more than 20 Burmese police and military officials “raided” a liaison office of the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), the group’s armed wing. According to the RCSS, the intruders had no warrant and gave no prior notice.
Seven liaison offices were authorised under a ceasefire reached between the SSA-S and the government in 2011. Unwarranted entry and inspection of their offices risks damaging the country’s ongoing ethnic dialogue, the statement said, stressing that if something “goes wrong” with the peace process, “it is not the fault of the RCSS.”
The reprimand was issued on the same day that bilateral peace talks reconvened in Rangoon. The Union Peace-making Work Committee, a team of government negotiators, met with the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) on Wednesday for a two-day conference aimed at drafting a single-text nationwide peace pact.
The RCSS is not a member of the NCCT, but is currently under statewide ceasefire with the central government and has attended some national peace accord conferences. Although the SSA-S has had a state peace agreement for three years, the statement warns that, “if it is not possible to use peaceful means to solve the political problems, there is no choice but to continue the armed struggle until political aims are achieved.”
The intrusion into the Kengtung facility occurred one day after a politician from a dominant Shan political party, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, was allegedly abducted and beaten by Burmese soldiers in Nam Lin Mai, also in Kengtung Township. The party claims that the victim now faces charges for violating the Unlawful Associations Act.
The Shan State People’s Resistance Day, designated 21 May, commemorates the day when a group of revolutionaries took up arms and began the struggle for independence and self-determination in 1958, ten years after Burma’s independence from Britain and the signing of the Panglong Agreement in 1947, which remained unhonoured.
Resistance Day celebrations this year were held at SSA-S headquarters in Loi Taileng. More than 1,000 troops paraded at the event. The event is also celebrated by the state’s other armed group, the Shan State Army-North, headquartered in Wanhai.