Monday, October 11, 2010

Burmese Army seizes gold boats, militia in Shan State

Monday, 11 October 2010 20:35 Jai Wan Mai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese troops yesterday seized seven gold-prospecting boats on the Salween River and arrested two Chinese citizens and members of a Shan brigade that had recently transformed into a junta Border Guard Force.

Although unable to give exact numbers, sources in Konhein Township in southern Shan State where the arrests took place confirmed that some of those detained were members of the former 7th Brigade of the ethnic ceasefire group, the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N).

The Chinese worked for Loi Kong, a gold-mining company based in Thabeikgyin Township, Mandalay Division, according to sources in the Shan army.

The SSA-N originally comprised three groups, the 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades. Two brigades led by Sao Loimao and Sai Gaifa agreed to transform their troops and bring them under junta command within its Border Guard Force (BGF) in April after heavy pressure from the Burmese military junta.

However, the 1st Brigade led by Major General Pangfa, which has a strong base in Wanhai, Kehsi Township, in the south of Shan State, refused to join the BGF. The group is believed to be the strongest of the brigades and has about 2,500 well-equipped fighters.

The reason behind the arrests was unknown, but according to Major Sai Lao Hseng of the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), which continues to fight for self-administration, “the arrests were for two reasons. Firstly, because most of the businesses run by ceasefire or militia groups in Burma were not officially registered.

“Secondly, Maung Aye might suspect it of being a joint venture between the 1st and 7th Brigades because the 1st Brigade of the SSA-N still refused to transform into militia force. This is the attempt to weaken the opposing group.”

Maung Aye, the vice-chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, the junta’s name for itself) – the second highest ranking member of the Burmese dictatorship – is the top official overseeing the ethnic ceasefire issue.

They are not the first detentions of SSA-N members or former members. On November 3, 2005, the group’s leader, Major General Hso Ten, was charged with defamation of the state, association with illegal parties and conspiracy against the state. He is serving was sentenced to 106 years in prison by the junta.

Hso Ten was one of several Shan leaders arrested after attending a meeting of opposition and ethnic groups in the state in February, 2005. They were accused of high treason. Hkun Htun Oo, chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD), received a 93-year jail term, Sai Nyunt Lwin, 85 years and Sai Hla Aung, 75 years. The SNLD won a landslide victory across Shan State in the 1990 election.

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