Uncertainty Reigns in Shan State
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Uncertainty Reigns in Shan State

By Aung Lwin Oo NOVEMBER, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.11


Conflicting claims, suspicion and arrests create confusion


Although the Rangoon regime insists that Shan State is stable, one armed opposition group, the Shan State Army (South), continues to hold out against government pressure to disarm. Relations between Shan groups and the regime are also strained because of the arrest in February of several ethnic leaders, including 82-year-old activist Shwe Ohn.


Complicating the situation still further in Shan State is the status of the United Wa State Army, which maintains a de facto ceasefire with the regime while allegedly continuing to engage in a drugs trade protected by their own armed forces.


The first ceasefire agreements between Shan ethnic groups and the regime were signed in 1989. The original agreements granted the groups business concessions, particularly in logging, and tax collection autonomy. They also allowed the groups to remain armed—but from early this year the regime has been pressing them to disarm under a program dubbed “Exchange Arms for Peace.”


In April, 170 soldiers of the Shan State National Army turned in their arms and 843 rebels of the Palaung State Liberation Army surrendered to the Burmese Army. The following month, the leader of the SSNA, Col Sai Yi, and several of his troops abandoned their base in northern Shan State and merged with the SSA-S.


In September, an 800-strong brigade of the Shan State Army (North) also abandoned their base rather than disarm.


Despite these developments, the junta’s information minister, Kyaw Hsan, claimed at a recent press conference that “peace” had been secured with armed ethnic movements.


“If things are improving, why are people fleeing to Thailand every day?” responded SSA-S spokeswoman Nam Khur Hsen. The Burma Army presence in Shan State has also increased dramatically, from about 40 battalions in 1988 to a current strength of more than 200, according to Khuensai Jaiyen, of the Shan Herald Agency for News.


The UWSA, with an estimated membership of around 15,000, is the strongest of the Shan ethnic groups.

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