While Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N) representatives continued meeting with government officials in Yangon yesterday regarding ongoing armed conflict, the Burma Army renewed attacks near the group’s headquarters and abused a returned IDP.
The fighting occurred on two fronts within five miles of Wan Hai, the SSPP/SSA-N base in Kesi Township. For four hours yesterday morning, ground troops engaged in an offensive near the neighboring Mong Hsu Township villages of Mong Ark and Wan Lwe, while artillery was fired from Pang Wo, Loi Yu and Kiu Mawk Khao.
The villages are located in between Mong Hsu and Kesi’s Mong Nong sub-township, territory which the Burma Army allegedly ordered the SSPP/SSA-N to abandon on November 19. The area was once home to 6,000 civilians, many of whom have fled, contributing to the current displacement of more than 10,000 people in Shan State.
Some speculate that the attack was aimed at clearing the area, rather than destroying specific targets.
“The Burma Army shelled indiscriminately,” said one SSPP/SSA-N soldier who witnessed yesterday’s siege.
Sai Mong, an SSPP/SSA-N officer based in the conflict area, admitted that he could not identify which group the Burma Army soldiers represented. He suspected they were a combination of those from battalions within the military’s Eastern Command and from within Za-Ka-Ka, the Military Operation Command, a government armed wing which SHAN reported had fired on a known IDP site in Kesi Township on November 10.
“They attacked us in large numbers, but we didn’t see any airplanes,” Sai Mong added; eight Burma Army air attacks have been documented in the area in less than two months, as well as over 40 ground offensives.
At the same time as the attacks occurred, SSPP/SSA-N representatives were engaging in a second round of talks with members of the government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC) in Yangon. The first discussion was held on Friday, when an informal ceasefire was also negotiated and then broken three days later.
Although official statistics on injuries or casualties is not known, at least one IDP returned to Mong Ark yesterday afternoon, following the three-day lull in fighting. Lung Bee, 32, had fled to an IDP camp in Kesi Township and came back to his farm alone to harvest his rice.
He told SHAN that he was approached and questioned by Burma Army soldiers, who allegedly bound his hands with rope, beat him with sticks, and interrogated him about possible connections to the SSPP/SSA-N, an allegation which he denied.
“I told [the Burmese soldiers] I escaped like the others did. I thought the war was over, so I came to do my harvesting,” Lung Bee said.
He escaped later that night and returned to an IDP camp, where he is recovering from his injuries.
Since fighting in central Shan State began on October 6, the area has only experienced four days without clashes: November 8—the day of Burma’s general election—and November 19-21, when an informal ceasefire was agreed between the SSPP/SSA-N and the Burma Army. During this time, the Burma Army allegedly reinforced its troops in Mong Hsu, and on the evening of November 22, the offensive started again.
By SIMMA FRANCIS and ZAAI ZAAI LAO MURNG (Shan Herald Agency for News / S.H.A.N)
Reporting by NANG HOM and SAI YIPHONG (Shan Herald Agency for News / S.H.A.N)