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Words and Photos by Brennan O`Connor
Loi Taileng, the headquarters of the Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), is on barren hilltop near the Thai border in Burma’s Shan state. Landmines lay scattered in the valleys below. On one side of the stronghold is the Thai border patrol, while Burmese troops occupy a base on an adjacent mountain.
Loi Taileng provides refuge to thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are mostly from central and southern Shan state. Many of the civilians fled forced relocations during a government offensive in Shan state in the mid 1990s. At the headquarters, the IDPs have access to Shan language schools and clinics and are able to enjoy the relative peace that Loi Taileng offers.
The SSA-S, which inked a ceasefire deal with the central government in December 2011, has engaged in dozens of clashes with the Burmese army since agreeing to the truce. Most recently, a firefight broke out with the Burmese army on 24 February near Kholam. According to a report in the Shan Herald News Agency, locals fear the fighting will escalate as the Burmese army continues to reinforce the area with fresh troops.