Clashes with Shan army will not disrupt peace talks, minister says
source emg 25.february
Last week’s clashes between government and Shan State Army troops will not affectpeace talks with the Shan State Progressive Party, President’s Office Minister Aung Minsaid.
The clashes were the result of a misunderstanding between low-level troops, the minister, who is also vice-chairman of the government’s Union Peace Working Committee, told reporters at the Myanmar Peace Centre on Saturday.
Aung Min admitted that clashes took place on February 19 and 20. “It happened because of a misunderstanding between lower level troops. No fighting occurred yesterday or today. Similar incidents might happen in other countries. This will not disrupt the peace talks,” he said.
Reliable reports said that during the last weeks of February, thirty Burmese government troops were killed in action in its clashes with the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA).
“Fighting on the 22 February was quite fierce and the Burma Army came to collect its deaths and wounded the following day. The casualty of the government troops was not less than thirty”, according to a militia leader, who don’t want to be named.
On 24 February, unexploded 60mm ammunition fired by the Burma Army exploded, due to the villagers’ routine bushfire in preparation for land cultivation, during the night. The villagers said that the panic-ridden government troops responded by firing their weapons all night long.
“A ceasefire is a firm foundation for peace, but we have much to discuss after ceasefires. It is difficult to hold talks while carrying weapons. Such an incident might happen between low-level troops because they are carrying weapons. This is a further issue to discuss. We are holding talks alternatively with armed ethnic groups,” Aung Min said.
Although the fighting between the government army and Shan troops was not the focus of February 20 talks in Chiang Mai, Thailand between the Union Peace Working Committee and ethnic alliance the United Nationalities Federal Council, Aung Min said the talks could reduce fighting.
The Shan State Progressive Party and its armed wing, the Shan State Army, are members of the ethnic alliance that reached a ceasefire agreement with the government in January last year.
About 50 clashes between the Shan State Army and government troops have been reported since the ceasefire was signed