A group of 291 Shan civilians internally displaced by war in Shan State sent a letter of appeal directly to President U Thein Sein requesting a withdrawal of Burma Army soldiers from the areas of conflict and compensation for land and possessions they had allegedly destroyed.
The letter, addressed to U Thein Sein, claimed that Burma Army soldiers destroyed 422 acres of farmland, looted and killed farmer’s livestock and forcibly occupied houses of villagers.
“We are therefore requesting that the Burma Army troops who have occupied our house compounds withdraw from Pasaung, and for the government to provide compensation for the destruction of our property, crops and livestock.” The Shan IDPs said in their letter to Thein Sein.
The statement came as conflict continues between the Burma Army and Shan State Army-North, the armed wing of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), in spite of a nominal ceasefire agreement between the two.
The Shan Human Rights Foundation, which monitors human rights abuses in Shan State, estimated that 3,000 Burma Army troops were in the area. SHRF also estimated that a further 500 Burma Army soldiers were using Pasaung village as its base, and had been firing artillery shells from the village to nearby Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) positions.
Nang Kwarn Lake, from SHRF, said that the international community could not conduct “business as usual” with Burma’s government while conflict on-going in Shan State.
“We would like the international community to bring pressure on the government to stop launching attacks in the ethnic areas, as it is undermining the peace process. We [have] urged John Kerry to suspend military to military cooperation with the Burma Army,” Ms Lake said in an interview with Karen News, “Business as usual with the Burmese government is just giving it the green light to continue attacking the ethnic peoples.”
Paul Keenan, a senior researcher at the Burma Centre for Ethnic Studies, said that the conflict was part of a Burma Army strategy to strengthen the government’s position at the bargaining table during the ongoing peace process.
“The Burma Army is trying to enhance territorial integrity by gaining territory before the signing of a NCA agreement” Mr. Keenan said in an interview with Karen News, referring to the as yet unreached nationwide ceasefire agreement, “unfortunately the length of the peace talks has allowed the Burma Army to encroach on SSPP territory, but we must remember that it is not just the Shan but also the Ta’ang National Liberation Army as well… Essentially the attitude of the Burma Army is to get as much as they can before a nationwide ceasefire agreement is signed.”