The Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLO/PNLA), who both signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), are currently engaged in a conflict in the Kadu Gyi area of Mawkmai Township, Langkho (Linkhay) District, Shan State. The spokespersons of both forces have accused each other of territorial invasion as the cause of the fighting.
Shan Herald reporter Nan Nong Nong contacted Colonel Khun Okkar about why the current fighting in Kadu Gyi area, what is the situation in Kadu Gyi area, and whether the shooting by two armed forces of PPST, which signed the NCA, will affect the peace process.
Q: Could you provide a summary of the incident where two arm forces, who had signed the NCA, engaged in a gunfire exchange in the Kadu Gyi area of Maukmai township?
A: If we have to talk about this issue, when the 2013 federal level agreement was signed, President U Thein Sein designated the Kadu Gyi region as the controlled area of the PNLO in the contract. Bilateral agreement. There was a problem there, and U Aung Min had to come in and clear it up. Later on, both sides entered and exited the area. As the RCSS went in and out, the PNLO went in and didn’t come out. As it is an area under their control, they had to go and see public issues, rice distribution issues, schools, and clinics. As the two armed forces lost contact in the forest, they started shooting. It’s the same now. It is not deliberately to go to the camp and attack.
Q: Could you provide your insights into the recent shooting between the RCSS/SSA and the PNLO/PNLA? What factors may have contributed to the incident?
A: What I said above is one thing. Another thing is PNO/PNA. The PNA, which is now a militia, also entered Honar Township, in the north of Kadu Gyi region, after making an agreement with the RCSS, and they entered the township and set up camps. After reaching an understanding with RCSS/SSA and PNO/PNA, they entered the township after forming an alliance. However, the Pa-O groups did not consult with each other about what the PNO had agreed on and what they said about the area. Without consulting, RCSS thinks it is convenient with PNO/PNA, and this may happen while going in the area.
Q: Regarding this kind of fighting, when we contacted the spokesmen of the two forces, both sides attributed it to territorial invasion. What is your perspective on this issue?
A: According to this Bilateral Agreement, as far as I know, the Bilateral of RCSS designates Mong Tor, Mong Htar Region, Mong Pan West Region, and Homong Sub-Township as the control area of RCSS. Those 4 places are set. Not including Kadu Gyi area. More than 60 villages in the Kadu Gyi area were allowed to be controlled by the PNLO in the bilateral agreement between the PNLO and U Thein Sein. Therefore, if you say that the territory is invaded, if you look at the agreement, the agreement testifies that it is the PNLO’s territory.
Q: It is known that there have been such skirmishes between RCSS/SSA and PNLO/PNLA before. So, how can we solve this problem to reduce shooting exposure?
A: Yes. The previous battle was very intense. PNLO built a new city and built a camp. There they shot each other. The chairman at that time was Khun Myint Tun. Khun Myint Tun was sent to Loi Tai Leng to negotiate with Chairman Yawd Serk. At that time, the RCSS was not yet a member of any army group. When he went to talk, everything was resolved.
Now, for this kind of issue, it would be good if we found a way to communicate with each other at the ground level. It can be solved if you tell where you’re coming from, how you’re going, or where you’re going, either by walkie talkie or by machine. One of the problems in that area is that I don’t know what the U Aung Kham Hti group has agreed to or what they have said. That’s why I think we can get it if leaders talk to each other and solve it.
Q: Since both armed forces involved in the clash are members of the PPST, which has signed the NCA, do you think this incident could potentially have an impact on the ongoing peace process?
A: It cannot affect the peace process. This happens while going in and out at the ground level. Moreover, in terms of politics, we are working cooperatively along the lines of the NCA. All seven groups attended the informal peace talks led by Colonel Sai Nguen, with PNLO representatives also present. We are collaborating to address what needs to be done.
Q: The leadership is working together. But shootings are happening at the ground level. How do you want to say this?
A: The main issue is between the PNO and PNLO rather than the RCSS/SSA and PNLO/PNLA issue. The PNO must ask how you told the RCSS, which areas you told them about. If the PNO told the RCSS that you can enter Kadu Gyi, then you are gone. That’s why the problem is not clear between the two Pa-O groups.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add or any other perspectives you would like to share on this matter?”
A: There is no reason for this to be a big deal. Also, there may be some misunderstandings based on the ambiguity of this regional area. If there is a misunderstanding like that, it’s best to stay in their own place. Now we know that PNO/PNA and RCSS/SSA have formed an alliance, but we don’t know what they agreed to.