Army’s opium taxation forays led to clashes
Ambushes staged by the Shan State Army (SSA) South on Burma Army units on their opium taxing expeditions had resulted in the recent military confrontation between the two, according to a longtime border watcher in Thailand.
19 January 2009
“Roving army patrols in Mongkeung and Laikha townships were said to have been taxing each village K 200,000 ($ 195),” he said, “thereby providing plenty of opportunity to the SSA to carry out their ambushes.” (The SSA had also attacked a Burma Army column escorting a copper are exploration party, said a source from Panglong.)
The Burma Army’s retaliation on 13 January on a temporary SSA base resulted in heavy casualties on the Burma Army’s side, he added.
The SSA South has been understandably quiet about its ongoing military operations in the Laikha-Mongkeung area in Southern Shan State. “We don’t want a repetition of (Lt-Col) Khun Kyaw’s fate,” said Lt-Col Kherh Ngeun, who is responsible for military affairs in the SSA South.
Khun Kyaw aka Than Gyaung, 43, and his small force of 50 fighters surrendered near Namkham on 2 January 2006, after a 4 month hide and seek campaign waged by the Burma Army’s Lashio-based Northeastern Command. The small contingent was totally cut out off from its forward base in Mongkeung by some 200 km as the crow flies.
Two months later on 4 March, Khun Kyaw and 28 others were sentenced to death by Lashio court and sent to Mandalay prison. He was later moved to Tharawaddy, according to his family sources.
“It is very unlikely the SSA South will suffer the same fate,” commented a senior Burma watcher. “They are operating in their home base.”
Reports coming to SHAN say the SSA has been countering the Burma Army’s offensive by hit and run guerrilla tactics.