Friday, December 2, 2011

Burmese government and Shan State Army-South sign cease-fire

Friday, 02 December 2011 21:25 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – In a major breakthrough for the Burmese government, it concluded a cease-fire agreement with the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) on Friday in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State.

“I think that both the government side and the ethnic side discussed things in a spirit of peace today,” said one of the mediators who attended the meeting.

Late last month, the SSA-S made several demands: to stop the fighting and sign a cease-fire agreement, to solve long-time political disagreements through a genuine dialogue, to partner with the government in determining and assigning regional development projects, to cooperate in combating drug trafficking in Shan State and to open SSA-S liaison offices in Taunggyi in eastern Shan State, and also in Mong Ton and Kholam townships.

Burmese government and Shan State Army (South) representatives in Taunggyi Township on Friday, December 2, 2011, after a cease-fire agreement was reached, ending hostilities. The government is also engaged in separate peace talks with the Kachin Independence Organization. Photo: Mizzima

The negotiating teams included Shan State Chief Minister Sao Aung Myat, Shan State Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Aung Thu, Union Rail Transport Minister Aung Min, Union Electric Power No.2 Minister Khin Maung Soe, government military officers, and six representatives from the SSA-S led by Brigadier General Sai Lu and Colonel Sai Hla.

In 1996, Colonel Ywad Serk reorganized the SSA-S by combining the troops of the Mong Tai Army (MTA), which was the strongest ethnic armed group along Thai-Burmese border. It’s leader, Khun Sa, was a leading drug lord who surrendered to the junta in exchange for certain guarantees.

On November 19, Burmese government peace-making delegations met with four ethnic armed groups: the SSA-S, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Chin National Front (CNF) separately to seek cease-fires. The other ethnic groups have yet to sign peace agreements.

Government peace delegates and Kachin Independence Organization leaders met on Tuesday in Shweli in southwest China to seek a cease-fire agreement, but so far, no agreement has been reached.

Estimates have placed the size of the SSA army at around 10,000 troops. In the past, it managed to procure large quantities of weapons from both China and the United States.

The Shan State Army-South is the faction of the Shan State Army that has continued its armed struggle, whilst the SSA-North signed a cease-fire with the government.  The original SSA was formed in 1964 and its political wing the Shan State Progress Party was established in 1971. The SSA pursued an armed rebellion against the ruling military junta until 1989, when the collapse of its Chinese-backed ally, the Communist Party of Burma, removed its main source of arms and ammunition.

A small number of SSA cadres led by Sao Sai Lek - the SSA's commander since 1983 - remained active in the field, joining the rival Mong Tai Army led by Khun Sa to create the Shan United Revolutionary Army (SURA). Sao Sai Lek died in January 1995, and a year later Khun Sa surrendered to the government. A faction of former SURA fighters led by Yawd Serk refused to surrender and merged with other scattered Shan forces under the name Shan State Army-South.

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