Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ spokesman Sai Lao Hseng says the next round of talks with Naypyitaw’s union level delegates will deal with local development as well as misunderstandings surrounding the ceasefire agreement concluded between the two sides on 2 December.
“According to the understanding reached in Taunggyi (Shan State capital), we would be responsible for security in the countryside and the Burma Army in major towns and the main motorways,” he said.
However, what is happening at the ground level appears to be deviating from the agreement:
- For instance, the Burma Army’s Triangle Region Command based in Kengtung informed yesterday that all SSA units active in Shan State East should withdraw to the Thai-Burmese border bases.
- Burma Army units in Shan State South have also not suspended their patrols in the countryside. “Villagers were told by the patrol leaders, ‘The government is doing its job by holding talks. We are also doing our job’,” he said.
The inevitable result was the shootout in Mongpan township on Tuesday, 20 December, when the two armies patrols ran into each other near the village of Namtawng. Three Burma Army soldiers were said to have been wounded.
The Burma Army charged that the SSA had shot first, while the latter denied, saying it was the other way round.
The latest developments have given rise to inevitable questions among the SSA officers and men, according to him.
“Some of us are saying whether President Thein Sein and the Burma Army are playing good cop and bad cop against us,” he told SHAN, “while others are wondering whether the President has any say in military matters.”
Burmese papers have reported President Thein Sein ordered a unilateral ceasefire to the Army fighting in Kachin State on 10 December. So far, this has failed to stop the conflict there.
To date, Naypyitaw has signed ceasefire agreements with 4 groups: United Wa State Army (UWSA), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), Kloh Htoo Hpaw and the SSA ‘South’.
According to information minister Kyaw Hsan, 5 others have also agreed in principle to conclude ceasefire agreements, apparently meaning Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Chin National Front (CNF), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and SSA ‘North’.
Naypyitaw has also invited the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) for another round of talks on Sunday, 18 December, according to Kachin spokesman La Nan.