New armed ethnic organisations could further destabilize peace process
Yet another disconcerting development as occurred in relation to Myanmar’s ethnic landscape with the announcement of another armed ethnic group. The announcement that the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA) has been created was recently posted on Facebook.
Described as an independent organization “not under any other group,” the SNA claims to represent the Shan peoples of northern Myanmar. With a population estimated at 300,000, the Red Shan—translated to Shan-ni in Myanmar and Tai-leng in Shan—largely live in southern Kachin State, particularly near Mohnyin and Bhamo, and in Sagaing Division, the report said.
One of the SNA’s promises is to “protect local people bullied by other armed groups.” Since the 1960s, the Shan Ni, or Red Shan, communities have been situated between the Kachin Independence Army/ Organization (KIA/O) and the Myanmar Army. They report having suffered abuses from both sides in the conflict, which has reportedly contributed to the organization of informal Shan-ni militias over the years.
The SNA has reported one clash with the government this month. An outbreak of fighting was reported on January 11 on the Myanmar-India border. Three SNA soldiers were allegedly arrested by the Myanmar Army and one SNA sergeant was killed.
This month another group was formed that could further destabilise the ongoing peace process. Mizzima reported the formation of the Kachin Republic Party (KRP) and its military wing the Kachin Republic Army (KRA). According to Acting General Secretary Lashi Yawna, ‘. . . we will form the KRP with the objective of establishing an independent republic seceded from the current union.’ He also added that KRP offices are to be opened in China and Thailand.
As the Union Peace Conference and dialogue continues it is likely that more often unrepresented ethnic group will seek greater recognition. Sadly, it may involve resorting once more to arms.