04/29/2019, 16.59
MYANMAR
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Rebel armies in peace talks in Shan State

Fighting between the RCSS and the SSPP has stopped in Kyaukme and Thibaw townships. It broke out last September in the Namtu district. Since the end of 2018, the two groups have clashed more than 150 times, displacing thousands of persons. Shan State is the global centre for methamphetamine production.

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Two warring armed ethnic Shan armies have started peace talks, both groups have announced.

Fighting between the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), a separatist group, and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), a nationalist group, broke out last September in Namtu, a district in the northern part of Myanmar’s most easternmost state.

The fighting resumed after 21 December, when the Myanmar military declared a unilateral ceasefire in the region. Since then, the two groups have clashed more than 150 times, displacing thousands of civilians.

Unlike the SSPP, the RCSS signed the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the central government in October 2015. Since November of that year, the two armed groups have clashed in the municipalities of Hsipaw, Kyaukme and Namtu.

The SSPP has so far been able to count on the support of its allies, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is fighting for the self-determination of the Ta’ang ethnic group.

According to analysts, infighting is motivated in part by a desire to control the production and sale of drugs. Located on the border with China, Shan State has become the global centre for methamphetamine production.

“We don’t want to fight with the RCSS because both groups are Shan,” said SSPP Lt Col Sai Su. “We have been in northern Shan for a long time ago, but the RCSS moved from the south to the north. We need to build trust and share information. Lack of communication led to the fighting.”

Myanmar’s military has offered to mediate between the two groups to reach a ceasefire, but the latter have refused noting that it is up to the Shan to resolve their differences.

Lt Col Sai Su said that after designating restricted areas, fighting has stopped in Kyaukme and Thibaw townships. Both sides agreed not to encroach on the restricted areas whilst a solution is sought through negotiations, he added.

For the SSPP, the two sides “should work together on regional development, establishment of a federal union, and building trust between our two groups to achieve our goal, which all people in Shan State expect.”

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