Five Myanmar government soldiers and two Shan ethnic rebels have died in clashes in the country’s northeastern Shan state, rebel groups said Friday, even as fighting continued in Mon and Kayin states.
About 50 government troops and three Shan insurgents were also wounded during the clashes in Kyethi township since Thursday in central Shan state, they said.
Rebel forces have pulled back from a major outpost in a bid to ease the conflict and pave the way for talks, Khun Sai, general secretary of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), the political wing of the Shan State Army-North, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Khun Sai said the SSPP had held an emergency meeting to discuss the retreat because it wants a political—not military—solution to tensions between ethnic rebels and the government.
“We haven’t had any good results from solving the problems through military means for about 60 years,” he said. “That’s why we decided our troops should retreat, so that the clashes didn’t continue to spread.”
The Shan State Army had not yet received a response from Thein Zaw, deputy chairman of the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC), after informing him that its troops had retreated, he said.
Khun Sai told The Irrawaddy online journal that army forces had repeatedly ordered rebels to abandon the base in Wan Wap village, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Kesi, the principal town of Kyethi township, before launching an offensive that produced clashes in at least seven places in the area.
About 200 local people fled the area to seek refuge in a Buddhist monastery, he said.
The Irrawaddy report cited a villager named Shwe Thein from Wan Wap, who said violence had broken out there several times in the last few months, forcing about 300 villagers to leave.
But when they had returned, they discovered that Myanmar army soldiers occupied about half the houses in the village.
Shwe Thein also said the villagers had sent a letter last month to President Thein Sein, requesting that the troops leave their homes, but received no response.
As the clashes in Wan Wap village took place, government troops also attacked Shan soldiers at Nanhpasaung village in Kyethi township, Khun Sai told RFA, although he had no details about the number of dead and wounded because of ongoing fighting.
He said so far more than 1,000 government troops had attacked insurgents in Shan state.
The SSA-North is among Myanmar’s largest rebels groups and has had a bilateral ceasefire with the central government since 2012, although a number of clashes have occurred since then.
The clashes in Shan state this week coincided with deadly fighting between government troops and other armed ethnic rebels in Kayin and Mon states in southeastern Myanmar along the border with Thailand.
Fighting in Kayin and Mon states still continued as of Thursday, according to a report by Eleven Myanmar media group.
The renewed bouts of fighting came as Myanmar’s armed ethnic rebel groups and the government failed to reach a nationwide cease-fire agreement a week ago after five days of talks in Yangon, the commercial capital.
Commenting on the latest clashes in Shan state, Nang War Nu, a lawmaker from the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), told RFA that there had been no discussion in parliament so far about ending the continued clashes.
“Only the government and the military have the power to resolve these problems,” she said.
Nang War Nu also said collaboration between armed ethnic groups and the government on a cease-fire and peace plan was still weak and that more representatives from Shan, Kayin and Kachin and Kayah states were needed in parliament to facilitate a resolution.
Reported by Aung Moe Myint and Kyaw Kyaw Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.