Sagaing Locals Demand Tatmadaw, Shanni Army Cease Fighting
By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP (NMG)
Saturday, April 25, 2020
Locals have called on the Burma Army and the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA) to stop fighting and address the rising military tension in Sagaing Region’s Homalin Township.
The Burma Army and the SNA clashed in the Chaung Gyi area of Homalin on April 17 and 18. Once the fighting had died down, the Tatmadaw sent reinforcement troops to the conflict-affected area, making many locals afraid to go to their farms amid the increased militarization.
“Soldiers in civilian clothes are patrolling the Chaung Gyi area and along the Uru stream. We are really worried about it,” Hsur Hseng Murng, who lives in the Chaung Gyi area, told NMG.
He added that the Burma Army troops were also entering villages armed with weapons and have said that they are “taking care of security for the area.” Locals said that the soldiers did not allow them to search for firewood in the jungle around Chaung Gyi on April 24, instead instructing them to stay in the village.
“We are farmers. We search for vegetables in the jungle nearby our village. We search for firewood in the jungle nearby our village. We depend on this jungle. If we are not allowed to go to this jungle, how can we find our food?” Hsur Hseng Murng explained.
He said that since the soldiers are dressed in regular clothing, villagers don’t know which armed organization is coming into their village and that it is “putting stress on the local people.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has added another dimension to the villagers’ concern for their own safety amid the tension.
“Another thing is that if a villager gets sick, it is difficult for us to go to the hospital at night. We are in danger. Everyone is worried about this,” Hsur Hseng Murng said.
The Shan Ethnic Affairs Society (Northern Burma) released a statement on April 23 calling for all clashes to be halted during the coronavirus outbreak.
The SNA said that there are no clashes in the Chaung Gyi area currently, but the presence of extra Burma Army troops has heightened the risk of further fighting clashes later.
“Military tension remains high in the area,” Col Hsur Sai Htun, an SNA spokesperson, told NMG. “The Burma Army hasn’t retreated from the area and they have sent more troops into the area. We want to avoid clashes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It depends on the Burma Army, because they have started a military offensive in the area. We are trying to avoid armed conflict with them as much as we can. We don’t want to fight amid this virus outbreak,” he explained.
According to Col Hsur Sai Htun, the reinforcement troops have been sent to Chaung Gyi from Hpoung Pyin, Khamti and Bamauk.
The clashes on April 17-18 were more than a two-hour drive from any villages, he added, and were primarily fought against the Homalin-based IB-222.
“I think the reason for the clashes is our anti-drug campaign in the area. Anti-narcotics campaigning is included in the SNA’s policy. Therefore, we take action against illicit drugs and narcotics trafficking, and give punishments. The problem started from this,” Col Hsur Sai Htun told NMG.
NMG tried to call Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team for comment but received no response.
The SNA was formed on July 5, 1989 by Shanni youth from Kachin State and Upper Sagaing. Their five aims of the organization are to achieve a Shanni state, campaign against drugs, participate in building a genuine federal union, develop the Shanni region, unite all Shan ethnic tribes, and conserve the natural environment.