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Shan army set to cast a wide net

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The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the political arm of the Shan State Army (SSA) South, must do its utmost to form alliances with all the diverse groups both within Shan State and the rest of Burma, according to Chairman Yawd Serk.

“It’s time to win the SPDC’s former allies over,” he declared on 3 June, toward the end of a two-day bi-annual meeting in Loi Taileng, opposite Maehongson’s Pang Mapha district. “That doesn’t mean they have to become part of the RCSS/SSA. We can agree on an appropriate name.”

He was speaking in relation to the deteriorating relations between Naypyidaw and the ceasefire groups, following the former’s demand, at first, for the latter to lay down arms and, after their refusal, to transform themselves into border security forces under the Burma Army’s command. Most of the ceasefire groups, except for a few, have been against the call, saying their demands for greater autonomy have not been met.

“I know we all want to set up a single movement,” he continued. “But the prevalent call from all is for alliances. So let us become allies with others and go through a trust-building process like forming joint commands and joint military exercises. As trust grows, we can, by common consent, form a single movement later.”

The SSA, together with 3 other groups, namely, Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO) and Tai Coordination Committee (TCC), has already formed the Shan State Congress (SSC). The 6 State Military Alliance with Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Chin National Front (CNF), Kachin National Organization (KNO), Karen National Union (KNU) and Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) was formed earlier. “The military alliance has been dormant for some time,” he conceded. “But with the 2010 elections coming up, there is a strong need to bring it back.”

The SSA, together with most of the opposition movements, regards the elections being planned by Naypyidaw as illegitimate.

The meeting also resolved to form alliances with “any group either political or military that recognizes the SPDC military clique as enemy.” The resolution followed a statement made by the 12th Strategic Consultation Meeting (SCM) on 6 April to form a broad-based alliance against the 2008 Constitution and the 2010 planned election that, it said, would only “entrench the military rule.”

The SCM was formed by the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), Women’s League of Burma (WLB), Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), Student and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB) and Nationalities Youth Forum (NYF).

The SSA currently appears to be strongest anti-Naypyidaw armed movement. The population of Loi Taileng, its main base alone, is over 13,000, of which less than 3,000 of them are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), according to the report submitted at the meeting.

There are four other SSA bases along the Thai-Burma border:
Loi Moong Merng        Opposite Muang district, Maehongson
Loi Lam                     Opposite Wiang Haeng district, Chiangmai
Loi Hsarm Hsip           Opposite Fang district, Chiangmai
Loi Gawwan                Opposite Mae Fa Luang district, Chiangrai


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