Burma: Clashes continue with ethnic rebels despite ceasefire
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Burma: Clashes continue with ethnic rebels despite ceasefire

Burma’s war against ethnic rebels is ongoing. Although peace talks are taking place, there seems to be no end in site in the war against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Moreover, even though the government’s peacemaking team has reached a truce with the Shan State Army (SSA), the Burma Army is reluctant to accept the agreement.

According to several ethnic groups, if not for the historic Panglong Agreement, there would not have been the Union of Burma. The said Panglong Agreement between the non-Burman leaders and General Aung San was the groundwork of today’s Union of Burma or Myanmar, various ethnic leaders highlighted.

Many ethnic leaders asserted that they don’t have faith in the new 2008 constitution. They consider that it will not produce a genuine federal union in the future. In addition, the Burmese armed forces take 25 percent of all seats in the existing parliament. So, the current constitution will not grant the democratic freedom and the fundamental rights for the ethnic groups of the nation.

Regional peace talks in Taunggyi, Shan State (South), were held between the government’s Union-level peacemaking group and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP)/ Shan State Army peace-making group on 28 January this year.

According to the government’s media, both sides signed a five-point groundwork agreement and exchanged the notes.

The five agreement points are as follow: (1) To build peace, the preliminary agreement signed between Shan State peace-making group and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) in Taunggyi on 28 January, 2012 shall be approved. (2) To do concerted efforts ensuring non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty at all times based on Panglong spirit. (3) To arrange improvement of livelihood and sociolife of Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) members and their families in line with law in cooperation with the government shall be made. (4) To cooperate with the Union government in a fight against narcotic drugs shall be made. (5) To launch further discussions and negotiations ensuring eternal peace.

Even though there is a truce between government’s peace-making team and the SSPP/SSA peace-making group, hostilities have been taking place sporadically in Shan State.

The Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ sent a letter of protest to Gen Soe Win, Deputy Supreme Commander and Commander of the Burma Army, on 28 June concerning a clash which took place in Laikha, Shan State South, on Wednesday, 27 June, according to Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.).

A patrol team of the SSA was assaulted by a patrol unit of Burma Army’s Infantry Battalion 64, based in Laikha, near Mark Khi Nu mountain, Wan Yerng tract, Laikha township, according to the letter.

This latest clash marks the 24th military confrontation between the two sides since the ceasefire agreement was signed on 2 December 2011. It was the 7th clash since Gen Soe Win first attended negotiations on 19 May. So far, there has beenno response from Gen Soe Win, S.H.A.N said.

The 6 previous clashes, as reported by SHAN, were: (1) Pongpakhem, Mongton township, where the Burma Army was “in search of a deserter” on 23 May 2012. (2) The SSA unit assigned to jointly conduct survey with the Burma Army in Monghta shelled by the Burma Army on 2 June 2012. (3)  Burma Army’s Infantry Battalions (IBs) 225 and 65 attack SSA base in Pongpakhem, Mongton township on 16 June 2012. (4) Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 515 attacks SSA base in Ook Look, Namhsan township on 17 June 2012. (5) IB 249 patrol ran into SSA patrol near Na Lawn village, Pang Poi tract, Mongkeung township, due to non-advance notification as agreed earlier on 19 June 2012. (6) LIB 575 column attacking SSA at Hsaikhao, Kunhing township on 19 June 2012.

Thus, the peace deal seems to be on paper only. Some analysts believe it will be of benefit to military-backed President Thein Sein government. Furthermore, the real aim of seeking temporary ceasefire by the government seems to ease economic sanctions, rather than genuine peace.

Hence, even though some ceasefire deals are made between the rebel groups and the government there has been little real progress. As the military-backed regime has hastily attempted to escape from sanctions, it tries to obtain more foreign recognition through peace-talks with the ethnic rebels. But the government seems unable to control its armed forces.