Monday, August 1, 2011

Half of government battalions besieging Shan headquarters pull out

Monday, 01 August 2011 18:27 Kun Chan

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Seven out of 14 government battalions surrounding Wanhai, the headquarters of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), have withdrawn, said SSPP spokesman Major Sai Hla.

Since Thursday, the seven battalions have pulled out coinciding with the reassignment of the Tactical Operation commander who was based in Kyethi Township, 18 miles from SSPP headquarters. He was reassigned to Regional Command, Major Sai Hla said. Currently, the remaining seven Burmese battalions are positioned three miles southeast and five miles west of Wanhai headquarters.

He said the reason for the troop withdrawal was not clear. It may be a temporary withdrawal designed to send back their depleted forces. SSPP sources said that during the 18-day government offensive that started on July 11, 100 government soldiers were killed, about 200 were injured and more than 50 deserted.

Because of the fighting, a total of 13 primary schools, a charity school and a high school from 20 affected villages in the area were closed. More than 1,000 students cannot attend schools and are taking refuge at safe locations.

On July 25, government officers sent two Buddhist monks, who are residents in the area, to Wanhai headquarters to mediate a cease-fire, but the SSPP rejected the offer, saying it was not serious.

The SSPP and the Kachin Independence Organization have both said that they want a nationwide cease-fire rather that separate cease-fire agreements with each armed ethnic group.

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