Southern Shan State
Southern Shan State is home to many people groups including Shan, Lahu, PaOh and Ta-ang people. It has seen some of the most consistent conflict of any part of Burma, but often this has been between the ethnic groups as well as with the Burma Army. The Lahu are a small, predominately subsistence farming community. The Burma Army has been known to forcibly conscript men and boys from Lahu villages for military service. Even though its a forced conscription, the Lahu often encounter conflict with other ethnic groups for supporting the Burma Army. This is an example of how the Burma Army works a divide and conquer strategy against the ethnic nationalities, the goal being control over territory filled with natural and human resources. Shan State is resource-rich, but this has given rise to conflict that makes life difficult and dangerous and rarely helps the local population. Often, natural resources are shipped straight out of the country. Burmese timber is logged illegally by Chinese timber companies, who pay off the Burma government and whichever ethnic armed group (EAO) territory the timber passes through. Though the payoff isnt close to the full value of the timber sold, the money collected is used to fuel the war. Mining and the sale of precious metals is another example of resource exploitation by the central government and Chinese companies.
In 2019, fighting amongst Shan ethnic groups was primarily between SSA-S and Taang National Liberation Army (TNLA). These two groups clashed often, displacing villagers and destabilizing every-day life for families in those areas. There were also clashes between the SSA-S and Burma Army, despite both being signatories to the National Ceasefire Agreement.
In April, two warring factions initiated peace talks with each other. The Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) have clashed over 150 times since 2018, displacing thousands. Still, leaders from both organizations have made moves to open peace talks. One officer from the SSPP stated, We dont want to fight with the RCSS because both groups are Shan. We need to build trust and share information. Lack of communication led to the fighting.
The same willingness for unity amongst Shan people is only a start. Unity is required amongst the different ethnic groups to overcome the Burma Armys political and military pressure