The Shan State Army (SSA) South’s # 1 Military Region, based in Loi Gawwan, opposite Chiangrai, capped its week long refresher training with a 3-day shootup exercise that ended yesterday, an event that startled local populace on both sides of the border.
“It is a normal periodic exercise to keep our troops on their toes,” explained Lt-Col Gawn Zeun, Commander of the # 1. “And we do owe the people our sincere apologies if we had upset them.”
News of the shootings in Loi Gawwan was first broken by a local Lahu yesterday. “We thought there must be fighting,” he said. “But later I saw Thai soldiers pursuing their daily chores undisturbed.”
There are border outposts of the Burma Army, Royal Thai Army, United Wa State Army (UWSA) and Burma Army-run militias in the neighborhood of Loi Gawwan.
Despite the ceasefire agreement signed on 2 December 2011, the group has already fought at least 25 times against Burma Army columns that have been carrying out “area clearing” and “area control” operations. Troops under Gawn Zeun’s command themselves had been engaged in 7 of those clashes.
Four other main bases on the Thai-Burma border, especially Loi Taileng HQ base, are also reportedly going through a series of training courses.
Lt-Gen Yawdserk, Chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), as the SSA South is officially known, recently told Thai Public Broadcasting Service (TPBS) that he evaluated the success of the ceasefire situation at 25%.
He had presented a 4-point proposal in November: ceasefire, liaison offices, special development zones and cooperation against drugs.
So far he has been able to set up liaison offices in Taunggyi, Kengtung, Kholam, Monghsat and Tachilek and through them, has been able to conduct public consultations. “As for others (meaning ceasefire, special development zones and cooperation against drugs), they are more of agreement in paper than in deeds,” said an SSA officer.
Nevertheless, the group, during its 2-day bi-annual meeting in Loi Taileng, 26-27 July, resolved to move ahead with the peace and national reconciliation process, according to Yawdserk.