The Burma Army and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N) clashed in northern Shan State on Sunday evening, just days before the start of the Union Peace Conference.

Fighting broke out as the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Battalions No. 33 and 147 marched toward the SSA-N’s Loilem outpost in Mongyang Township’s Tangyan village tract, but there were no casualties, said Major Sai Hsu, an SSPP/SSA-N spokesperson.

“Artillery troops assisted [the Burma Army] with supporting fire. We suffered minor injuries and so did the military. They brought Lahu special combat forces along with them and three Lahu [soldiers] were injured. We arrested one of them,” Major Sai Hsu told The Irrawaddy.

As the country’s Union Peace Conference is scheduled to convene on Wednesday, the clash coincided with preparations for SSPP/SSA-N leaders to attend the conference.

Maj-Gen Sai Htoo of the SSPP/SSA-N was attending a joint preparatory meeting for the conference as the fighting occurred, said the spokesperson.

The military troops withdrew and the clashes stopped, said the spokesperson, adding that the SSPP/SSA-N provided medical treatment to the ethnic Lahu soldier and would contact the army to send him back.

“If the fighting was waged based on orders from a higher level, that is unacceptable. Some of our delegates have already arrived in Naypyidaw and Rangoon, and we are 85 percent ready to attend the peace conference. It is not good that this happened,” said Maj-Gen Sai Hsu.

“But if this is just an encounter between lower level troops, it will be okay. And I hope that the military will exercise restraint,” he added.

The Irrawaddy contacted the Public Relations and Psychological Warfare Directorate of the Ministry of Defense and the Joint Monitoring Committee to verify the clash, but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

Demanding all-inclusion, the SSPP/SSA-N opted out of signing last year’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with former President Thein Sein’s administration. It is also a member of United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—an ethnic bloc of NCA non-signatory groups. The SSPP/SSA-N, together with other UNFC leaders, will attend the peace conference.

Despite the upcoming conference, there have been frequent clashes between Burma’s military and ethnic armed groups in northern Shan and Kachin states.

On August 8, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi met Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and discussed ending fighting in those areas.

But clashes continue between the military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the SSA-N and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Link: http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/clashes-continue-days-before-peace-conference.html