The futures of the two largest Shan armed opposition groups remain uncertain amidst renewed clashes between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N/SSPP) and continued deliberation within the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S/RCSS) on whether to sign Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) on October 15 in Naypyidaw.
At about 8:00 a.m. this morning, fighting broke out between the SSA-N/SSPP five miles south of the town of Mong Nong, in northern Shan State. Information about injuries and casualties caused by the clash was not available at the time of reporting.
On Monday, tension grew in Kesi Township between government forces and SSA-N/SSPP, according to SSPP spokesperson, Sai Hla, who expressed concern about the alleged reinforcement of nearly 400 Burma Army troops to the SSA-controlled area.
The action occurs less than a week after it was widely reported that the SSA-N/SSPP was one of ten groups to withdraw from NCA negotiations, citing a lack of inclusivity in the accord.
It is unclear whether the SSA-S/RCSS will choose the same response.
“We are in the middle of meetings at our headquarters. We have no idea what will the result be,” advisor of the SSA-S/RCSS told S.H.A.N. “There is no assured decision whether they are going to sign or not.”
The SSA’s southern bloc has also experienced recent bouts of active conflict with government forces. Last month, several clashes erupted between the Burma Army and the SSA-S/RCSS, who previously were active in areas west of Salween River but were forced to relocate east to Mong Ta Township. According to local residents, the United Wa State Army (UWSA)—Burma’s largest ethnic armed group—has since taken control of the area.
Ceasefire talks continued in Yangon on October 4, where a meeting was held between the government and eight ethnic armed groups, including the SSA-S/RCSS, to choose an NCA signing date.
“This meeting is not to discuss which groups will be signing [the NCA],” said U Hla Maung Shwe, a senior advisor at the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), in a press conference after the meeting. “In the case of the RCSS/SSA, they have signed a ‘Deed of Commitment’ which states that [they] will have to sign the NCA before the [November] election.”
Over 20 ethnic armed organizations originally hoped to be included in the NCA, but the offer of participation was only extended to 15.
Regardless of whether the SSA-S/RCSS becomes a signatory to the agreement, seven ethnic armed organizations are now slated to ink the NCA later this month. These groups include the Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Karen Benevolent Party (DKBA), Karen National Liberation Party-Peace Council (KNLA-PC), Chin National Front (CNF), All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), Pa-O National Liberation Party (PNLA) and Arakan Liberation Party (ALP).
By SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)