Rebel leader goes AWOL
Col Moengzuen, who broke away from the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army (SSA)- South to work with the Interim Shan Government...
No.01 - 07/2006
1 July 2006
Rebel leader goes AWOL
Col Moengzuen, who broke away from the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army (SSA)- South to work with the Interim Shan Government (ISG) formed by a group of expatriates last year, has been out of touch for days in a row, said sources from the border:
The last time he was heard was Wednesday (28 June) when he was reported heading towards Kehsi, 184 miles northeast of Taunggyi, with 60-of his men. "Villagers told us he appeared to have more weapons than men due to desertions and resignations," said a truck driver.
His disappearance has led to speculations that he had probably surrendered to the Burma Army. In fact, sources from the SSA-South believe Moengzuen had given himself up to the Burmese troops on Thursday at Pangpo, a village 7 miles west of Kehsi.
S.H.A.N. sources however have been unable to lend confirmation to the report so far.
"If the report turns out to be true, the ISG would be left with only one foot to stand upon," commented a veteran Burma watcher. Its two mainstays right from the beginning have been Sao Hso Khanfa (President of the ISG and son of Sao Shwe Thaike, late Prince of Yawnghwe who become the first President of Burma in 1948) whose presence has lent a sort of legitimacy, dignity and credibility to the movement, and Col Moengzuen, the group's standard bearer in the field, according to him.
According to the SSA-South, it had dispatched Lt-Col Pawng Khurh in April to the south with two missions: to replace Moengzuen as Commander of the 758th Brigade and to deliver him a formal directive from Loi Taileng to return to the fold. "He would not be punished in any way," assured Col Yawdserk, Moengzuen's former boss until April 2005, when he switched his allegiance to the ISG. "We know he meant well, but we'd like to know what led him to do what he's been doing."
Sources coming from southern Shan State also told S.H.A.N. how Lt-Col Pawng Khurh had tried to convince through local intermediaries that his intentions were peaceful. "Please let him (Moengzuen) know we're not here to fight him," he was quoted as saying. "We won't fight even if he wants to."
Col Moengzuen nevertheless had refused to meet him and has since been playing hide and seek not only with his replacement but also with the Burma Army troops in the area. Reports of his negotiations with the Burma Army have time and again reached S.H.A.N., but each time denied by the ISG and by himself.
Moengzuen's force, later renamed SSA-Central, was according to him 2,727 strong when he announced his support for the ISG on 25 April 2005. Later on 21 May 2005 (Shan Resistance Day) he further declared that 272,714 troops under the command of the ISG were fully ready to regain the freedom of Shan State.
Related Report: Shan army on peace mission, 17 May 2006