Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kokang capital falls: “Not shoot first” policy under fire

Laogai (S.H.A.N), the capital of Kokang, just 5 months after celebrating the 20th anniversary of peace with the country’s military rulers, is under Burma Army control since Monday night, 24 August, according to sources.

“I haven’t seen any Kokang fighters all day,” said one of the few remaining residents told SHAN yesterday. “Everywhere it’s the Burmese the soldiers.”

Peng Jiasheng - Kokang supreme leader

Another source said he had gone past what was until yesterday the mansion of Peng Jiasheng, the Kokang supreme leader and saw only Burmese policemen both inside and outside the wall.

Peng and three others, which included his younger brother Jiafu and two sons, were said to have escaped to the north with his troops.

According to the latest information, Peng and troops loyal to him are still holding positions northeast of Laogai and at Qingsuihe (Chinshwehaw) aka Nampha on the southern border with Wa.

As the new base at Kunghsa is just 4km from Laogai, the Burma Army could have mounted an attack if it chose to. “But they have yet to do it, probably because it is too uncomfortably near the Chinese border,” said a source from the border. “The Burma Army has instead brought in other Kokang rivals of Peng to deal with him. Apart from Bai Souqian (his former deputy), there are now Kokang militias loyal to the Burma Army from Kunlong, Hopang and even his archenemy Yang Mouliang. If there is going to be any shooting, the Burma Army can now tell the Chinese it’s a fight among the Kokangs, the Burma Army has nothing to do with it.”

On the other side of the border, China has set up a temporary holding center for the refugees from Burma, according to the same source. “They are giving them a blanket and a mat each, besides food,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) is reportedly holding an emergency meeting with its Kokang ally this morning at Namteuk, south of Qingshihe.

Bao Ai Roong - UWSA’s 318th Division

The two towns are separated by the Namting and connected by a bridge over it. “The fall of Qingsuihe,” admitted a Wa source, “could greatly threaten the safety of Namteuk and restrict our movements.”

Namteuk is the headquarters of the UWSA’s 318th Division, commanded by Bao Ai Roong, the Wa supreme leader’s nephew.

The fall of Laogai without a shot being fired has brought into question the practicality of the “Not Shooting First” policy of the Peace and Democracy Front (PDF), whose members include Kokang, Wa and Mongla. “We should also have spelled out what movements by the Burma Army would be deemed as hostile acts,” said a Shan ceasefire officer. “Now, because we have said that we won’t shoot first, the Burma Army is being allowed to beef up its forces around us.”

The Kokang debacle could be repeated elsewhere, he warned, if the alliance continued to hold on the policy.

Kokang, since 1989, had been under the control of Peng Jiasheng. The Burmese authorities, now that an arrest warrant for him has been issued, is reportedly encouraging Peng’s rival groups to set up a new leadership.

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