Will SSPP/SSA Wage War?

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 05 Scenes
MoeMaKa, May 06, 2024

Will SSPP/SSA Wage War?

Recently, during the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), Vice Chairman Lt. Gen. Sao Khun Hseng remarked that an armed revolution is now necessary as political resolutions are no longer feasible. This statement has garnered significant media attention and speculation.

SSPP, one of the two main Shan ethnic armed groups, declaring that political dialogue can no longer establish a true federal union has led to various interpretations regarding its implications and underlying reasons.

Of the two Shan ethnic armed groups, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), led by Yawd Serk, is typically associated with southern Shan State, while SSPP is linked with northern Shan State. However, their activities have fluctuated over time, with both groups occasionally operating outside their usual territories due to military actions, armed conflicts, and shifting power dynamics.

In recent years, there have been clashes not only between the two Shan ethnic armed groups but also between Shan groups and other ethnic armed factions. The SSPP generally holds sway in northern Shan State and maintains a close alliance with the United Wa State Army (UWSA), sometimes perceived as having strong Chinese ties and influence. The recent announcement at the 60th-anniversary ceremony, suggesting no alternative but an armed revolution, has raised concerns about imminent conflict. During Operation 1027 in northern Shan State last year, there were expectations of Shan armed group involvement, yet neither RCSS nor SSPP participated. Post-operation, some criticized the Shan groups for their non-participation. It remains unclear if the call for armed resistance stems from these criticisms or an assessment of Operation 1027’s impact.

Northern Shan State is home to various ethnic armed forces, and southern Shan State also hosts Pa’O-based armed groups and militias. In Myanmar, most armed groups are ethnically rather than ideologically based, founded to protect their respective ethnic communities. Dominating and safeguarding their territories from government or other armed group oppression is a fundamental objective, necessitating manpower and funds.

To achieve these goals, ethnic armed groups recruit members, collect taxes (referred to as tributes when collected by rebels), and compete for control over territories. In such contested areas, friction and competition between multiple armed groups often arise. Recent conflicts in northern Shan State, such as the removal of the checkpoint in Kutkai and the attempt to seize former military council land, illustrate these tensions. These disputes are internal among allies rather than against the military council, underscoring the importance of resolving them without resorting to arms.

In summary, one of SSPP’s key objectives is to protect Shan-inhabited areas from oppression and abuse by maintaining control over their territories, collecting taxes, and recruiting members. The current weakening of the military council may have prompted SSPP to prepare for territorial control and expansion, indicating a shift toward military methods to achieve their goals.

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