Sunday, 4 December 2011

Shan State Army - South (SSA-S)

opswarfare embarks on Part 2 of the series on current conflicts in South-East Asia.

Myanmar vs Shan State Army - South
The Shan State Army - South (SSA-S) is one of the rebel groups in Burma/Myanmar. Similar to the previous post on the Karen National Union (KNU), the status is of a low-intensity conflict.

Jane's description of this group below.
Active on the southern border with Thailand, this 'new' SSA became known as the Shan State Army - South (SSA-S) to distinguish it from the original SSA, which was still at peace with the government, and which became known as the Shan State Army - North (SSA-N). 
The objective of the SSA-S is to establish an autonomous Shan State within a federated Union of Myanmar. It seeks to use force to coerce the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) - the military junta that rules Myanmar - into complying with this demand.
Military tactics
With a low-intensity conflict, guerilla tactics are to be expected. According to this report, attacks on the logistics network (in this case, food) is one of the tactics employed. 

Like many other rebel groups in Burma/Myanmar, the SSA-S does publish regular  updates of its military operations, including detailed statistics (example) on casualties, date/times, location, etc. 

This form of "information warfare" is a useful tool in a low-intensity conflict. It is a way to inform the civilian population, who may be suffering from the effects of the conflict, so that they are "kept in the loop". It is also used to publicise their cause and to highlight military abuses (if any) to foreign media & interest groups. 

Other issues?
The drug trade in the Golden Triangle contributes significantly to the international drug market, and the SSA-S knows that adopting a strong stance against drugs will have indirect benefits in terms of implicit support from neighbouring governments like Thailand, and also moral support, better recognition and legitimacy from international groups.

Future trends?
As of the date when this blog post was published, the SSA-S has just signed a ceasefire agreement with the local government in the Shan state.

While ceasefire agreements are not rare (and have been broken previously), it is possible that recent political changes in Burma/Myanmar may finally result in some form of tangible peace in the ethnic regions also.

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