Burmese army attacks RCSS ahead of peace talks

Burma’s armed forces have launched offensives against the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), only a week before the second round of national peace talks known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC) are due to be held.

According to Lt-Col Sai Nguen, the RCSS/SSA spokesperson, Burmese troops from battalions 502 and 242, which are under command of Military Operations Command (MOC 1) based in Kyaukme Township, opened fire on Tuesday on Shan positions in Oum Mu tract in northern Shan State’s Hsipaw Township.

“Heavy fighting took place from 2pm until 6pm,” he said. “It was a premeditated attack; that is why it was so heavy.”

He said that since his group signed the NCA in October 2015, it has clashed more than 20 times with the Burmese army. However, he reported that on this occasion no casualties were sustained.

The Shan army spokesman speculated that the reason for the assault was part of a plan to push all ethnic armies out of Hsipaw and Kyaukme townships.

He added that the RCSS/SSA will report the incident to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), a government-backed team formed after the signing of the NCA, whose duty it is to monitor whether all sides follow the terms of the NCA, such as the military code of conduct, and ensure that each armed group stays within their designated areas.

“From our side, we take steps to control our people. We do not break the terms of the NCA,” Lt-Col Sai Nguen said. “The Burmese army does not follow it. They have constantly been trying to create problems. I seriously doubt their sincerity with regards the NCA. Or is it that they wish to scupper the upcoming 21CPC peace talks that are due to be held later this month?”

On Monday, a clash broke out between the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Burmese armed forces in Laukkai in the Kokang-administered region of northern Shan State. Fighting continues in that area, where four ethnic armed groups – MNDAA, Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – launched coordinated offensives against Burmese army positions on November 20 last year.

Shan rebel spokesman Lt- Col Sai Nguen reiterated that it must be questioned whether the conflict in the Kokang region is another attempt by the Burmese military to destroy the peace process.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)