Monday, August 31, 2009

The fall of Kokang raises questions

Shanland - After three days of heavy fighting, 27-29 August, the bulk of the anti-Naypyitaw Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the name given to their armed force by the Kokang, moved yesterday into China where they were disarmed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The biggest question raised by the fall of Qingsuihe (Chinshwehaw), opposite Namteuk (Namtit), where the Kokang’s strongest ally United Wa State Army (UWSA)’s 318th Division is headquartered, may be: What were the Wa doing when the Kokang were being attacked at Qingsuihe?

At first, both the Wa and other sources reported that at least 500 UWSA fighters had been deployed to assist the embattled Kokang. However, on the 29 August evening, the Wa source told SHAN Qingsuihe had fallen, as the UWSA had decided only to make a stand along the Namting that forms as a boundary between Wa and Kokang territories in order to prevent any spillovers from the fighting.

What happened to the ‘all for one and one for all’ agreement reached earlier among the Wa, Kokang and Mongla? SHAN asked. But Panghsang has yet to answer the question, which has naturally prompted more questions:

• How strong is the Peace and Democracy Front (PDF), now that it has done practically nothing against the Burma Army’s attack on Kokang?

• Now that the UWSA has allowed Kokang its northern ally to go, is it ready to let go other allies, namely the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’ in the west and Mongla aka National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA) too?

• Does it think the UWSA will be able to make a lone stand against the Burma Army, after its allies have gone?

• What was China’s role in the Kokang debacle? Has the UWSA been advised that the Burma Army will not be allowed to make further attacks against it and its remaining allies?

Kokang’s deposed leader Peng Jiasheng has also voiced similar doubts in his special statement issued late in the evening of 28 August, a day before Qingsuihe’s fall:

• We have vowed that we would together overthrow the common enemy, the ruling military dictatorship clique. I request that we put our vow into practice starting today.

• If the Kokang force has been swallowed, the other allies armed forces will also be swallowed not long after. We therefore request you to counter attack the SPDC forces starting today.

Another big question arose when a report by a usually reliable source said that the mutiny in early August against Kokang’s supreme leader Peng Jiasheng was masterminded by a Liu Guoxi, a disgruntled member of the Kokang leadership, in cooperation with the deputy police of Burma.

With details lacking, SHAN as yet has no way to confirm the report, though Liu has been known in the past to be a colleague of Mong Hsala, the leader of now defunct Mongkoe Defense Army (MDA). MDA went into oblivion and its top leaders either jailed or executed in 2000 by the Burma Army during a mutiny against Mong Hsala.

Granted that the report is true, questions arise:

• Are there more Liu Guoxis among the ranks of the UWSA and its allied armies?

• Is the Burma Army in cahoots with them?

• Wei Xuegang, Commander of the UWSA’s Thai-border based 171st Military Region, is said to be close to Prime Minister Thein Sein. How close are they?

At present, the questions are hard to answer.

But investigations by the media and concerned agencies in the next few weeks will find whether the ideal goal of forming a grand alliance against the hated military regime is too late or can still be a dream come true.

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