The Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) marked its 50th anniversary on Thursday in Wanhai, Kehsi Township, in eastern Burma.
The ethnic armed organisation, which is still engaged in intermittent combat with the Burmese military despite signing a 2012 ceasefire pact, vowed to continue their armed struggle until a true federalist system is established.
“Our patron, [Lt-Gen] Hso Ten, reminded us of the origin of the Shan State Army in his opening remarks. We took up arms because the Burmese government denied ethnic rights and did not respect the Panglong Agreement,” said Sai La, spokesperson for the SSA-N.
“He urged members of the SSA-N not to forget this history, and to keep on with the struggle until our goal of ethnic equality is achieved.”
Lt-Gen Hso Ten and six other Shan leaders were arrested in 2005 and sentenced to 106 years in prison on charges including high treason. He was released under an amnesty by President Thein Sein in 2011.
SSA-N chairman, Lt-Gen Pang Fa, also addressed the crowds, expressing gratitude for half a century of public support for the Shan movement.
Representatives of the Shan State Army-South, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, Taileng (Red Shan) National Development Party, and civil society groups joined with about 3,000 supporters for the 24 April event.
Founded in 1964, the SSA-N reached a ceasefire agreement in 1989 with the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the military junta at that time. War with government forces resumed in 2011 after the group refused to accept the Border Guard Force scheme that would have co-opted them under the command of the Burmese military.
The SSA-N reached a new peace pact with the government in 2012, though as many as 100 instances of combat with the Burmese army or its allied militias have been reported since that time.