The President Thein Sein government has publicly declared its political and economic reforms including national reconciliation since it took office in March 2011. However, the government failed to handle its armed forces to keep up consistently with the peacemaking efforts.
Currently, the Burma Army’s actions are not likely supporting the peace plan strived by its government. If it was a fictional story, the people would consider the president’s reform plans as a sham and farce. The consequences of the army’s confusing acts will push the country into an additional disintegration.
Last month, the Burma Army opened fire on a Buddhist temple in central Shan State during an attack violating the ceasefire agreement with the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), according to the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) press statement released on 2 July. The government army turned the temple into a military base and dozens of monks abandoned their sanctuary and became internally displaced persons, SHRF said.
As said by the SHRF, on June 23, after sending in reconnaissance planes, the Light Infantry Battalions 525 and 569 launched an artillery attack on the village of Wan-Warb, 30 kilometers north-west of the SSA-N headquarters at Wan Hai, in Ke See township. As government soldiers used 60 mm and 79 mm field gun, the Buddhist temple and seven houses were smashed, injuring four villagers. A 90-year-old woman also died of fright when shells hit her residence.
The attack caused more than 30 monks and novices along with approximately 150 villagers to run away to a nearby vicinity. The soldiers looted the temple, as well as residents’ houses, stealing food, money and valuable things. Troops from two Burmese battalions are now stationed at the temple, using the Buddhist sanctuary as a military command post.
According to Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.), the SSPP/SSA has rejected the Burma Army’s demand to withdraw its base from its Ta Soppu camp, which is a key strategic point, because the Burma Army has prepared its units to take over the base using force. The SSA is prepared for any consequences. Some villagers have fled to other villages due to fear of death, said a Buddhist monk.
On June 25, the government army officers summoned headmen from nearby villages to the temple and questioned them concerning movement of the Shan State Army in the area. A villager was under detention and torture for two days.
On the same day, the SHRF’s statement says, while the government troops shelled the Wan-Warb Buddhist Temple, President Thein Sein’s Office issued an announcement blaming TIME magazine for “damaging the image of Buddhism.”
“If President Thein Sein cares about protecting Buddhism, why is he letting his troops shell and desecrate Shan temples?” said Tzarm Noan, Shan Human Rights Foundation coordinator. “Thein Sein’s claims to respect religion are as hollow as his claims to promote peace.”
The attacks are the latest in a series of operations in recent months by the Burma Army to encircle and cut off the Wan-Hai H.Q. of the SSA-N, in direct violation of their renewed ceasefire agreement in January 2012.
A comparable statement dated 5 April 2013 by SHRF said that atrocities by Burmese troops in a new military operation against the Shan State Army North have caused over 1,000 villagers, from 16 villages in Tang-yan, to flee from their homes during the past two weeks.
Since February, thousands of Burmese troops and artillery have been deployed to pressure the Shan State Army North to pull out from its territories along the Salween River, near Tang-yan. There have been armed clashes, and Burmese troops have been laying land mines and committing human rights violations against local civilians, the statement says.
Thus, the ceasefire agreement between Naypyitaw and SSPP/SSA on 28 January 2012 looks like it’s invalid for the Burma Army. It also leads to an uncertainty that the government’s temporary ceasefire agreements with ethnic armed groups seem to ease economic sanctions, rather than genuine peace.
In favor of promoting sustainable peace in Shan State, the Shan Human Rights Foundation directly calls on foreign governments to publicly condemn these attacks and atrocities by the Burma Army, and to make further engagement with the Thein Sein government finding a political solution to the conflict.