After nearly 7 weeks of fighting, the Burma Army is still fighting shy of taking Wanhai, the headquarters of the Shan State Army (SSA) North, prompting questions from both friends and foes alike.
One Burma activist has asked, “Wanhai could have been taken anytime they (Burma Army) wanted. But why haven’t they?”
To which Col Sai Du, Deputy Secretary General of the Shan State Progress Party (not Shan State Progressive Party), replied, “There are two reasons, I think:
- One, the Burma Army still believe we can still be persuaded to become its militia force
- Two, a lot of casualties and losses will be involved if they are going to take it.”
Roads from Kehsi, Monghsu and Mongnawng meet at Wanhai, since 1989, when the ceasefire pact was concluded between the SSA North and Rangoon, has been the main base of its First Brigade.
Since fighting broke out on 13 March, the Burma Army’s main objective has been to close off the group’s access to the Salween crossings, which serve as connections between it and its stronger ally on the east bank, the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
“You will notice that all the heavy fightings are between the Pang (east of Wanhai) and the Salween (further east),” said an SSA officer. “West of the Pang, most of the clashes between us are more accidental than planned. It seems clear they don’t want any SSA troops between the Pang and the Salween.”
As a result, the Burma Army has suffered at least 300 casualties to date, claims Sai Du.
Latest reports coming from Shan State North and Shan State East indicate that more fighting is expected to take place soon. Commanders, up from squad level to battalion levels, in at least Lashio and Hsenwi were ordained as monks on 30 April. The monkhood will reportedly last for 7 days. “It means you have to be prepared for the worst than hope for the best,” a militia leader was quoted as telling a rebel friend.
In the meanwhile, Burma Army troops are concentrating in Mongyawng, Shan State East, where they are facing joint Wa-Mongla troops at two strategic point: Loi Pang Nao aka Mawn Pang Nao, 8542ft, the second highest mountain in Shan State, and Hsop Lwe, the mouth of the Lwe that drains into the Mekong international river.
All the militia forces under the command of the Burma Army both in the East and North have also been put on the alert, according to sources.
Mizzima News reported on 3 May that an appeal letter to President Thein Sein has been signed by 10,000 people who are calling for amnesty to political prisoners, ceasefire with ethnic armed groups, political dialogue with ethnic armed groups and welcoming back the exiled activists and refugees.