Renewed fighting broke out in Southern Shan State’s Mine Shu/Mong Shu township on August 22, reportedly leading to casualties on both sides and terrorizing the local population.
The escalating conflict between the Tatmadaw and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army – North (SSPP/SSAA) comes shortly after the SSPP/SSA announced its resignation from an ethnic bloc that is negotiating terms for signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement.
The SSA-North, the armed wing of the Shan State Progress Party – has a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government, but has opted not to sign the NCA.
According to a spokesperson for the SSA, the August 22 skirmish lasted around 20 minutes. The Tatmadaw and the SSA fought near Pangkhan Village in an area near Mong Shu township starting around 4pm, said Sai Phone Han, the SSA spokesperson.
“Our military camp is located in that area. The skirmish broke out when a joint military column from the Tatmadaw’s 520th and 521st light infantry battalions comprising 80 troops approached in the direction of our military camp,” he said.
He added that both sides suffered casualties, but did not indicate a number.
The Tatmadaw and the SSA also fought in January this year. At the time, state media reported that the Tatamdaw had been attacked while trying to clear opium poppy fields, a claim the SSA denies.
Civilians around Mong Hsu expressed fears that fighting in the area would return to 2015 levels, when more than a thousand residents were displaced.
“There used to be a lot of military movement when there was fighting here in the past. Everything is normal in Mong Hsu [now]. I don’t want them to continue fighting. I’m very afraid of it,” said Nan Sein, a local resident.
Leaders of ethnic armed groups, including the SSPP/SSA, are currently meeting in Pangkham, the headquarters of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic armed group. The SSPP/SSA is a member of the new Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee, an alliance of ethnic armed groups active in the north, led by the UWSA, and which has renounced the nationwide ceasefire agreement.