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SSA-North rejects encroachment accusations

Soldiers from the SSA-North

The Shan State Army-North has rejected accusations that it encroached on an area outside its zone of control earlier this month, resulting in an armed clash with a Burmese army battalion.

The Shan army’s response comes after the state government last week sent a letter to the group’s political wing, the Shan State Army–Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), at its headquarters in Wanhai, Kehsi Township, accusing the Shan group of contravening a state-level agreement outlining areas of control and prompting hostilities with Burmese troops.

A clash broke out between a Tatmadaw [Burmese army] column under the command of Infantry Battalion 325 and the SSA-North on 10 September. No casualties were reported.

Sai Phone Han, the spokesperson for the SSA-North/SSPP, confirmed that the letter had been received, but he denied that the Shan army had provoked the confrontation, saying that the Tatmadaw had been to blame.

These recent tensions are the latest in a string of disagreements and armed clashes between the two sides. Although it signed ceasefires at state level and union level in 2012, the SSA-North refused to enter into the Burmese government’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in October 2015.

The SSA-North has clashed with the Tatmadaw many times in recent months, including battles in the Shan State townships of Lashio, Namkham, Monghsu, Tang Yan, Hsipaw, Kyaukme and Kehsi.

“In the peace agreement we signed in 2012, it was agreed that SSA-North troops were to be based in Wanhai headquarters and in its existing branches,” said Sai Phone Han. “The Loi Ywel mountain, where the clash [on 10 September] occurred, is located between Mong Yel and Sai Kyawt, both of which are areas where we have been operating for more than a decade.

“The Burmese army has no bases in those areas. It was not us who encroached in that area, it was the Tatmadaw troops, under the pretext that they were conducting clearance operations.”