IDPs “dare not go home” as Burma Army reinforces troops during informal ceasefire

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The Burma Army allegedly reinforced troops and military equipment to central Shan State on Friday night after agreeing to an informal ceasefire with the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N) on the same day.

A meeting was held in Yangon on Friday between government representative U Khin Maung Soe—who is the current Minister of Electric Power and a member of the Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC)—and an SSPP/SSA-N delegation. It was decided that they would form a working committee for peace in the region, where Burma Army offensives have been ongoing since October 6, displacing more than 10,000 civilians.

A government delegation including U Khin Maung Soe meets with SSPP/SSA-N in 2013 (Photo: Sai Hak)
A government delegation including U Khin Maung Soe meets with SSPP/SSA-N in 2013 (Photo: Sai Hak)

Sai Nor Lek, an SSPP/SSA-N representative who attended the meeting, said that they were able to negotiate an informal ceasefire with the Burma Army through U Khin Maung Soe.

But later that evening, an SSPP/SSA-N information officer based in the armed group’s headquarters in Wan Hai, Kesi Township, said that he witnessed more than 30 Burma Army trucks heading from Taunggyi, Shan State’s capital, to Namzang Township and Mong Nong sub-township; meanwhile, military tanks were transported from Mandalay into Lashio, in northern Shan State.

On Saturday, government officials informed SSPP/SSA-N representatives that the Burma Army had changed their stance and was calling for the retreat of the SSPP/SSA-N from central Shan State’s Mong Hsu Township and Mong Nong sub-township; some interpreted it as an order for the ethnic armed group to isolate themselves in Wan Hai.

“U Khin Maung Soe replied that he can do nothing,” said Sai Nor Lek.

According to those assisting the region’s internally displaced population, the news came as a disappointment to IDPs who have been anxious to return to their farms to complete the annual rice harvest and secure their food supply for the next year.

“The civilians were happy to hear the news that they would have a chance to go back home again. But today it has changed,” said Sai Nor Lek.

Sai Harn, a volunteer working with IDPs in Mong Hsu Township, said that a pause in fighting on Thursday, November 19 had made many people hopeful that the conflict was coming to an end.

“The IDPs saw that the conditions were good, so they prepared to go back home to harvest their rice,” he said on Saturday. “But yesterday they heard about the government military increasing troops, and now they dare not go back home.”

A second meeting between UPWC members and SSPP/SSA-N representatives was scheduled to take place today in Yangon. The outcome of the meeting was not available at the time of reporting.

By SIMMA FRANCIS AND ZAAI ZAAI LAO MURNG (Shan Herald Agency for News / S.H.A.N)

Reporting by SAI YIPHONG (Shan Herald Agency for News / S.H.A.N)

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