Shan groups warn of mass displacement if conflict breaks out

A Shan environmental organization warned that the recent increase military tension between the Burma Army and the ethnic armed group, the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), could destroy cease-fire agreements and result in conflict that could cause massive displacement in Northern Shan State.

The Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization said that on March 26, the Burma Army issued an ultimatum to the Shan State Army-North to remove its troops from the west bank of the Salween River, east of the Tangyan-Mong Kao Road. The area is where Chinese companies are planning to build a mega dam on the Salween River, in Shan State.

Sai Khur Hseng, a spokesperson for Sapawa told Karen News.

“The Burmese Army, Northeast Regional Commander, told SSA-N if they did not move out from the area, military action would be taken. The SSA-N has disagreed and it now has the potential for war to break out. If a full-scale war does break out in northern Shan State, there will be large scale displacement and suffering.”

Khur Hseng claims that the Burma Army wants all SSA-N troops to remove its military bases in the Nong Pha dam site area. Khur Hseng points out that it was agreed under its original 1989 ceasefire agreement, as well as under its recent 2012 peace agreement that the SSA-N could operate in the area.

Khur Hseng said that the Burmese parliament announced on February 27 that the construction of six dams on the Salween could begin.

In December, 2009 Burma’s Ministry for Electric Power signed an MOU with China’s Hydropower Engineering Consulting Group (HydroChina) to develop two dams, one at Nong Pha and one at nearby Man Tung, on the Nam Ma tributary of the Salween – it is estimated that they will produce 1,200 Megawatts.

Khur Hseng estimates that hundreds of villages will be destroyed by the Nong Hpa dam and said.

“The issue of natural resources is at the heart of armed conflict in Shan State. We want the government stop construction on all the Salween dams, until the government during the peace-building process.”

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