Burmese soldiers have allegedly raided the liaison office of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) in Kengtung Township, Shan State, according to Shan rebel leaders.
The rebel group’s office was raided on Tuesday evening by soldiers from the military intelligence unit, police officers and township authorities, rebel leaders say.
RCSS chairman Yawd Serk sent a letter of complaint on Thursday to President’s Officer Minister Aung Min, who is vice chairman of the government’s peace negotiation team.
RCSS leaders said they were not given a reason for the intrusion. They said the incident could lead to further mistrust, potentially damaging the peace process between the government and ethnic rebel groups.
The raid was allegedly led by Maj. Ye Nay Lin, head of the military intelligence branch in Kengtung. The soldiers were holding guns while they went through the office, according to RCSS members.
Lt-Col Sai Sa Mong, coordinator of the RCSS liaison office, said he was summoned on Tuesday evening to meet with Maj. Ye Nay Lin at the military intelligence office. “I was told to wait for him at their special branch office for about an hour, but in the meantime they went to our own liaison office,” he told The Irrawaddy.
In the aftermath, Sai Sa Mong called the military intelligence office to inquire about the reason for the raid, but was told he would need to return and ask his question in person before receiving an answer.
The military intelligence office in Kengtung could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
But Minister Aung Min has received the RCSS letter of complaint, according to one of his advisers at the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC).
The adviser, Hla Maung Shwe, said he was not yet sure how the minister would respond. “I won’t meet with Minister Aung Min until the day after tomorrow, so I don’t know now,” he said.
Col. Sai La, a spokesman for the RCSS, said he worried the raid could lead to mistrust between the government and ethnic rebel groups during ceasefire negotiations.
He said the RCSS had signed a preliminary ceasefire deal with the government and was working with other ethnic armed groups to negotiate a nationwide ceasefire accord.
“In the letter, we demanded that the UPWC [the government’s peace negotiation team] explain the incident that occurred in Kengtung on May 6,” he told The Irrawaddy. “This incident might damage our trust-building process. It makes the RCSS members and the public doubt the peace process.”
Since agreeing to a ceasefire in late 2011, the RCSS’s army and government troops have clashed more than 100 times. However, the RCSS has opened six liaison offices in Shan State.
The liaison offices offer local residents a platform to share their concerns about farmland issues, drug eradication and other difficulties.
In a separate incident, earlier this week a local party member of the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD) was detained by government soldiers for questioning in Kengtung after allegedly communicating with the RCSS, which is still considered an illegal association due to its decades of armed struggle against the government.
Additional reporting by Kyaw Kha.