Since Sunday, the ceasefire Shan State Army (SSA), better known as the SSA North (to differentiate it from the non-ceasefire SSA, commonly known as the SSA South) that had been under siege since last month, was attacked by an estimated 2,000 strong Burma Army units.
Last month, roads leading to the group’s Wanhai headquarters in Kehsi township were closed down by the attackers. Junta troops and the local militias under its command were also deployed to seal off the crossings on the Salween both in order to prevent the SSA’s main ally the United Wa State Army (UWSA) from providing support and to block its escape routes. “The Burma Army is not only cutting communication lines between the SSA North and the Wa (in the east),” said non-ceasefire SSA leader Yawdserk, “but also between the SSA North and the SSA South (in the west).”
The SSA North, reformed in January, after its 3rd and 7th Brigades agreed to become Burma Army run home guard militias last year, is about 2,500-3,000 strong and used to enjoy a close relationship with the UWSA.
The two, together with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) more popularly known as the Mongla group, had concluded a “whoever attacks one of us attacks all of us” pact on 16 April 2010.
However, 4 days have gone by since the first clash at Mong Awd in Monghsu township, but the defenders have yet to receive a single cartridge coming across the Salween from the Wa capital Panghsang. At least 4 bases have fallen through “firepower not manpower”, according to an officer in the war zone. Wanhai, led by its leader Maj Gen Pang Fa, is still standing, though he had said earlier he would not lose his men to protect a base.
“Perhaps we have been abandoned like they did with Kokang,” one Shan brigade commander told SHAN.
Kokang, which shares a border with the Wa in the north, fell in August 2009 after 3 days fighting without the promised help coming from its southern neighbor. “The junta’s plan is to remove the Wa’s fences in the north, the west and the south,” said a Thai Burma border watcher. “The next move after the SSA (that protects the Wa’s western flank) will be Mongla (that protects its southeastern flank).”
Panghsang’s procrastination has raised a question as to whether the appeasement faction reportedly led by Wei Xuegang, wanted both by the US and Thailand on drug charges, is gaining an upper hand in its decision-making body.
Which reminds one of what Sao Saimong Mangrai, the late Shan scholar, commented in his classic The Shan States and The British annexation:
- If a disaster occurs somewhere in the world, some Shans are apt to say that it is not in Burma and therefore it matters not. Should the disaster take place in Burma, the same people say it is not in the Shan States. If it happens in the Shan States, they say it is outside their state. If it does in their state, they will say it is not in their town or village. If it comes to their town or village, they say. “That is not our house.” If the disaster befalls their own house…….
Such a way of thinking of course had been responsible for the World War II.