The Burmese military today ordered the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) to immediately withdraw its troops from Monghsu Township in southern Shan State, while many civilians in the area have also been requested to move out.
Speaking to Shan Herald today, a local source in Mong Hsu who wished to remain anonymous said, “Villagers here were informed that the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] had ordered the SSPP/SSA forces to withdraw from their Nam Nab Base near Khojom village in Monghsu by this afternoon. Now, many local villagers have abandoned their homes and gone to seek shelter in Monghsu town.”
On January 10, SSPP/SSA representatives met with Brig-Gen Htet Htun, the head of Central Eastern Command, which is based in Kholam Township, Shan State, to discuss plans for road construction in SSPP/SSA territory. The Burmese commander told SSPP/SSA representatives that he would reinforce his troop strength in the area whether the Shan militia approved or not.
According to an official from the SSPP/SSA’s News and Information Department, who spoke to Shan Herald under condition of anonymity, the Tatmadaw ordered the Shan army to withdraw from the area before January 20 because they will bring reinforcements in.
“Because of this [troop reinforcements], they ordered us and the local villagers to move out,” said the official. “This could lead to an outbreak of hostilities.
“Apart from the Burmese military presence under Kholam command which is active in the area, more troops from Namsang Battalion No. 151, Kali Battalion 150, and Kunheng Battalion 524, as well as two security battalions have now been brought in,” he said.
The SSPP/SSA representative said that the Burmese military had also beefed up its troop strength in Tangyan Township, Lashio District, near the SSPP/SSA base at Loi Je, a strategic mountain outpost.
“We do not wish armed conflict,” said a representative of the SSPP/SSA who was due to meet with government peace negotiator Thein Zaw today in Yangon. “We have requested the Tatmadaw not deploy soldiers to build the road. Instead, they should employ civilians. But they did not agree.
“We also requested a meeting with Gen. Yar Pyae in Naypyidaw but it didn’t happen, so we proposed a meeting with U Thein Zaw today,” he added. “We want to solve the problem by political means.”
He re-emphasized: “We need to solve this problem immediately. Otherwise, fighting will break out and people will suffer.”
The Burmese armed forces launched heavy offensives against the SSPP/SSA, including assaults on its Wan Hai Headquarters in Kesi Township, during the general election last year.
SSPP/SSA is a member of the United Nationalities Federal Council which has to date declined to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement, or NCA. The Shan militia previously approved state-level and union-level ceasefire accords with the former Burmese government administration headed by President Thein Sein.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)