Friday, 5 September 2008

Ceasefire groups in Shan State face renewed pressure to surrender

By Solomon
04 September 2008

New Delhi (Mizzima)- The Burmese ruling junta has mounted fresh pressure on ceasefire armed rebel groups in Shan State to surrender arms latest by the end of 2009, an ethnic news agency based in Thailand said.

The Shan Herald Agency for News' editor Khun Sai, citing sources in Shan state, said Brig. Gen Ya Pyae, commander of the eastern military command, during his visit to Ho Mong township in Shan State in August put pressure on ceasefire arm groups to lay down their arms before the 2010 elections.

"Last month, Commander Brig Gen Ya Pyae told ceasefire arm groups in Shan State to surrender before the end of 2009," Khun Sai said.

Besides, Khun Sai said local villagers who have fled to Thailand told him that Maj. Gen Kyaw Phyo, Commander of Kengtung Township has pressurised ceasefire groups from southern Shan State to surrender or join the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), which has not signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta.

"He [Maj. Gen Kyaw Phyo] told armed groups that by 2009 there will be only two choices – either to surrender or regroup with the SSA-S," said Khun Sai, quoting local villagers.

However, Khun Sai said the armed groups are likely to try and avoid a situation of total surrender or laying down arms.

Meanwhile, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a major ceasefire armed group, said they have not yet come across fresh pressure to surrender arms.

"So far we have not received any official statement from the Burmese government pressuring us to surrender arms," the UWSA spokesman told Mizzima.

The spokesperson, who requested anonymity, however, said his group has no plans to surrender or to lay down arms until there is visible justice and equality in the country.

"We want to resolve things peacefully, so there is likely to be more discussions between us and the government, but surrendering of arms is not possible," the spokesman said.

Similarly, the Kachin Independent Organization (KIO), one of the strongest Kachin ethnic ceasefire groups, also said they were not aware of any renewed pressure from the government to surrender arms.

Major Gun Maw, spokesperson of the KIO, said, "They [junta] did not tell us anything regarding arms surrender and we are not thinking about this issue right now."

He said there have been no thoughts in the KIO over the issue of changing the group's name or to surrender arms.

"This is not the kind of planning and we are not discussing it," Gun Maw added.

But Mya Maung, a Burmese military analyst based along the Sino-Burma border and having a close relationship with ceasefire groups said, pressuring the ceasefire groups to surrender might indicate the junta's intention to prove to the international community that it is able to bring peace to the country.

"Because the groups that it [the junta] has pressured are not strong enough to resist and the junta wants to use them, but just groups like the UWSA and KIO will be difficult to pressurise," Mya

He said it is unlikely that the junta will be able to pressure big groups such as the KIO or UWSA before 2010 general election, though it might be possible to do so after the election.

"If the junta forcibly orders them to surrender then the groups are likely to break their ceasefire agreements and wage an active armed struggle," Mya Maung said.

Mya Maung said, Burma's political crisis is about democracy as well as problems of nationalities and without solving these problems, the government will continue to face problems, and conflicts will remain.

"Suitable political reforms would mean forming a federal system where ethnic groups are guaranteed their rights. This is the only long-term solution to Burma's political problems," he added.

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