The Restoration Council of Shan State this week warned that it would “continue the armed struggle” to achieve its political aims if left with no other choice.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the 56th anniversary of Shan State People’s Resistance Day, the ethnic rebel group said a recent raid by Burmese government authorities on the RCSS’s liaison office in Kengtung had “badly affected the mutual trust that has so far been achieved between the two sides.”
A group including police and Burmese Military Intelligence personnel raided one of the RCSS’s seven liaison offices on May 6, providing no specific reason for the action and temporarily detaining its office coordinator.
The Shan rebels have put the blame solely on the government for a rise in tensions between the two sides resulting from the raid. In its statement on Wednesday, the RCSS said it was not its fault “if something goes wrong with the ceasefire agreement and even the peace process,” but vowed to continue working to achieve its right to self-determination and autonomy through peaceful means.
The RCSS is one of 14 ethnic armed groups to have signed ceasefire agreements with the government since 2011, after decades of conflict.
Relations between the ethnic Shan rebels and the government were further strained this week by news that Ai Kyein, a village-level chairman for the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD), would be prosecuted under the Unlawful Associations Act after being arrested on May 5 and allegedly beaten by the Burmese Army. Ai Kyein is being charged for alleged affiliation with the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), the RCSS’s armed wing.
Asked about the latest challenges to relations between the RCSS and the government, a special adviser to the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center said “Minister U Aung Min [the government’s chief peace negotiator] is discussing the matters, informed by the RCSS leaders.”
The MPC’s Hla Maung Shwe did not elaborate on the details of that dialogue. “That’s all I can say at the moment,” he said, claiming that discussing the matter with the media would affect ongoing talks with the ethnic armed groups.
Other ethnic leaders also raised questions about the RCSS liaison office raid during meetings in Rangoon this week aimed at drafting a single text for a nationwide ceasefire agreement, according to Saw Tar Doh Moo, an executive committee member for the Karen National Union (KNU).
“It is hard to say whether we [ethnic armed groups and the government Army] will engage in fighting again,” Saw Ta Doh Moo said on Friday. “But we hold the principle that we can solve the problems by peaceful means, by bringing them to the table for discussions.”
Representatives from the Burmese military said the raid on the liaison office was based on “information it had received,” according to Saw Ta Doh Moo, who added that Army commanders would not comment on whether their action proved to be justified.
“Their answer was that such incidents would occur if the liaison office performed activities beyond the boundaries,” said Saw Ta Doh Moo, referring to the basic rules and parameters laid out in ceasefire accords that liaison offices agree to follow.
The KNU leader said he was nonetheless optimistic about prospects for the peace process, and said ethnic and government leaders were working on “setting up a mechanism for solutions to the problems arising, as it is inevitable to face misunderstandings and doubts between both armed groups in any conflict-torn country.”
The RCSS could not be reached for comment on Friday.