For the 4th consecutive day, Shan State Army (SSA) North fighters have been defending its Kawng Maihoong hill base in Monghsu township, Shan State South, near the border of Tangyan township, Shan State North, against some 10 infantry battalions from the Burma Army’s Central Eastern and Northeastern regional commands, according to SSA and local sources.
The group’s representatives had already negotiated a new agreement for cessation of hostilities on 22 June in Mandalay, in exchange for withdrawal of its fighters from Loi Pha Pheung, a mountain base leading to the Salween in the east. The agreement was reached after 4 days of fighting.
If the SSA thought its yielding of the base would end the fighting, they were wrong. Beginning Saturday, 30 June, the Burma Army’s Military Operations Command (MOC) # 2, commanded by Brig Gen Tint Lwin, moved its forward base from Mongnawng to the north in Mong Awd to stage an attack on the next, nearby SSA base Kawng Maihoong. The Central Eastern Region Commander Gen Tun Tun Naung himself is reportedly directing the operation from the township seat of Monghsu.
Heavy weapons include 81 mm, 82 mm and 120 mm mortars. The SSA believes some, if not all, of the shells could have contained poison gas, “because two of our men became unconscious” after inhaling the smoke drifting out from the blasts.
According to local sources, at least 20 wounded soldiers are being treated in Monghsu. A tolaji (farm tractor) driver was also killed, when his truck, requisitioned by the Burma Army, was ambushed by the SSA.
The fighting has also put to flight at least 300 people from the nearly villages in Mong Awd and Tawng Hio tracts. “The farming season has come but no one can go to the fields to work,” said spokesman Sai La. “We have therefore written to the President again to do everything in his power to stop the fighting.”
Its sister organization, Shan State Army (SSA) South, is not optimistic. It has already fought 24th clash since the signing of the ceasefire agreement on 2 December, and the 7th since the signing of another agreement with the Burma Army chief Gen Soe Win on 19 May in Kengtung.
The government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) was reshuffled in May, just before the Kengtung meeting, to include the military top brass.
“U Aung Min (Naypyitaw’s chief negotiator) told us in Kengtung that now that the military was on board he was confident there would be no more fighting,” he remembered. “But it seems the Army has its own agenda.”
When a Burma Army officer was asked by a friendly village headman in Shan State South earlier, why the Army was still fighting despite ceasefire agreements signed between the rebels and the government, he was reported as saying, “The government is doing its job and we are doing ours.”