Monday, August 07, 2006

A bout the SSA-South's 758th Brigade

Prodigal son returns
(04 August 2006 )

Prodigal son returns News - S.H.A.N. Friday, 04 August 2006
It is a classic case of the return of the prodigal son. Col Moengzuen, whose ‘return to the legal fold’ was formally celebrated by the generals on July 16, has returned to the struggle against the occupying Burmese forces, disclosed Col Yawdserk, leader of the anti-junta Shan State Army (SSA) South this morning.His disclosure was confirmed by an independent source from northeastern Shan State this morning. On August 1, Moengzuen and his men withdrew from their base at Namhu Phra Htam in Laikha Township, 79 miles northeast of Taunggyi, following a heated row with a Burmese commander who reportedly called for his total submission and that of his force.The 70-men led by Maj Sai Htoi have already rejoined their former comrades-in-arms from SSA-South, said Yawdserk. “As for Moengzuen, he has pleaded for amnesty through an intermediary,” recounted the SSA-South chief. “I said if there were any concerns about facing the execution squad, he could rest easy. But he had to recognize that he had caused severe damage to the struggle and must face formal inquiries. He will be given a chance to redeem himself afterwards.”According to the SSA’s earlier statement, Moengzuen had committed a four-fold offence:•Communicating with the enemy without sanction from HQ•Unauthorized acceptance of Kyat 60 million ($ 50,000) loan from the locals•Unauthorized levying of Kyat 90 million ($75,000) fine on the locals•Defection to the “Interim Shan Government” (ISG)While it is still unclear as to why Moengzuen had suddenly changed his mind about his new allies after barely 32 days with them, it could be one or all of the following reasons, said sources:•Failure of the Burma Army to live up to their promise (He had demanded the retention of all his former operational area, but was given only a few villages to operate)•He and his men were being employed in the Burma Army’s continued war against the SSA-South•He could not accept the total submission condition by the Burma ArmyMoengzuen (44) was Commander of the SSA-South’s 758th Brigade that oversaw the area between six towns: Loilem, Laikha, Mongkeung, Kehsi, Mongnawng and Namzang, until he announced his allegiance to the newly formed ISG that declared Independence last year. He ‘returned to the legal fold’ on June 29 after a year long sustained military offensive launched by the Burma Army.

Rebel leader ‘did not surrender, only made peace’
No.04 - 07/20065 July 2006

Former Shan State Army (SSA) brigade commander Col Moengzuen denied yesterday that he had capitulated to the Burma Army as reported by S.H.A.N. Saturday (1 July), according to a source in northern Shan State.
Col Moengzuen“He called me up today and said he had only made peace with the Burma Army,” recounted the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He would still be allowed to keep his arms and given an area where he could operate.”The source said Moengzuen had held a meeting with a “G-1” officer at Panglaw village, Mongnim tract, Kehsi Township, 3 days after he had “gone over”. According to the preliminary agreement, pending approval by Rangoon:  
Mongzuen and his men would be assigned either to Laikha, 79 miles northeast of Taunggyi, or Kehsi, 69 miles further.
His group would be renamed Shan State People’ Army (SSPA).
“He had refused to adopt the label Shan State Army South (Splinter Group) as suggested by the G-1,”said the source. It is still unclear whether Moengzuen’s little band would be recognized as a pro-Rangoon militia force or as a ceasefire group like the Wa, Kokang and SSA-North. Other sources however argue that since Moengzuen had made a de facto surrender, the likelihood of being accorded the same status as the Wa, Kokang and others is slim, “unless Rangoon believes he is as strong as he claims and thus can serve as an effective tool in its war against Loi Taileng (SSA-South base on the Thai-Burma border).”Moengzuen’s force, according to himself, was 2,727 strong when he announced his support for the Interim Shan Government (ISG) formed by a group of expatriates that declared independence last year.Meanwhile, the ISG members in Thailand have rebuffed the reports of Moengzuen’s surrender as a propaganda exercise by Loi Taileng. “If he had really surrendered, why have we not heard it from Rangoon’s media?” retorted one senior member when questioned yesterday. 

Rebel leader goes AWOL
No.01 - 07/20061 July 2006 

Col Moengzuen, who broke away from the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army (SSA)- South to work with the Interim Shan Government (ISG) formed by a group of expatriates last year, has been out of touch for days in a row, said sources from the border:
The last time he was heard was Wednesday (28 June) when he was reported heading towards Kehsi, 184 miles northeast of Taunggyi, with 60-of his men. "Villagers told us he appeared to have more weapons than men due to desertions and resignations," said a truck driver.
His disappearance has led to speculations that he had probably surrendered to the Burma Army. In fact, sources from the SSA-South believe Moengzuen had given himself up to the Burmese troops on Thursday at Pangpo, a village 7 miles west of Kehsi.
S.H.A.N. sources however have been unable to lend confirmation to the report so far.
Photo:Louis Boucaud 
Moengzuen (#3, front row) and Pawngkhurh (#5, front row) during basic training, 1984
"If the report turns out to be true, the ISG would be left with only one foot to stand upon," commented a veteran Burma watcher. Its two mainstays right from the beginning have been Sao Hso Khanfa (President of the ISG and son of Sao Shwe Thaike, late Prince of Yawnghwe who become the first President of Burma in 1948) whose presence has lent a sort of legitimacy, dignity and credibility to the movement, and Col Moengzuen, the group's standard bearer in the field, according to him.
According to the SSA-South, it had dispatched Lt-Col Pawng Khurh in April to the south with two missions: to replace Moengzuen as Commander of the 758th Brigade and to deliver him a formal directive from Loi Taileng to return to the fold. "He would not be punished in any way," assured Col Yawdserk, Moengzuen's former boss until April 2005, when he switched his allegiance to the ISG. "We know he meant well, but we'd like to know what led him to do what he's been doing."
Sources coming from southern Shan State also told S.H.A.N. how Lt-Col Pawng Khurh had tried to convince through local intermediaries that his intentions were peaceful. "Please let him (Moengzuen) know we're not here to fight him," he was quoted as saying. "We won't fight even if he wants to."
Col Moengzuen nevertheless had refused to meet him and has since been playing hide and seek not only with his replacement but also with the Burma Army troops in the area. Reports of his negotiations with the Burma Army have time and again reached S.H.A.N., but each time denied by the ISG and by himself.
Moengzuen's force, later renamed SSA-Central, was according to him 2,727 strong when he announced his support for the ISG on 25 April 2005. Later on 21 May 2005 (Shan Resistance Day) he further declared that 272,714 troops under the command of the ISG were fully ready to regain the freedom of Shan State.

Shan army on "peace mission"
No.14 - 05/200617 May 2006 

A 300-strong force was dispatched last month by the Shan State Army 'South' to areas in central Shan State, where one of its brigade commanders had switched allegiance to a rival group last year, according to sources from the border:Despite speculations that the expeditionary force commanded by Lt-Col Pawng Khurh might be on a combat mission against Col Moengzuen, formerly Commander of the SSA South's 758th Brigade and currently Commander of the recently renamed SSA 'Central", insider sources have maintained the operation was essentially political. "We could have sent a bigger force, couldn't we?", a senior officer asked rhetorically. Since a hitherto unknown group led by some Shan elders, claiming support by 48 of the 56 townships of Shan State, had set up a Shan Interim Government (ISG) and declared Independence on 17 April 2005, tensions have been growing between the two sides, especially after Moengzuen's defection. He has repeatedly ignored directive after directive from Headquarters to present himself at Loi Taileng, the SSA South's main base on the Thai-Burma border.Apart from his erstwhile associates, Moengzuen and his troops in the Six-Corner area (between Mongkerng, Kehsi, Mongnawng, Namzang, Loilem and Laikha) are also facing an annihilation campaign by the Burma Army."It doesn't make sense to fight among each other if both are fighting against the common enemy, the Burma Army," said a worried militia commander who called S.H.A.N. from his base. "We have let the people down once by an 8-year internecine war between us (1972-1980, between the SSA, which became the SSA 'North', and the SURA, which became the SSA 'South'). The lesson should have been properly learned by now." The 200 mile march from the Thai border to Mongkerng by Col Pawng Khurh, however, was not a peaceable one. The force was reportedly chased and intercepted by columns of the Burma Army all the way from south to north resulting in not a few clashes, according to local sources:
28 April, at Namkarb, Mongpan township with Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 520; killed 4 and captured 3 G-3 automatic rifles.
On 2 May, at Kunghak, Mongnai township with LIBs 332, 520, 574 and 576; killed 4 and wounded 3.
The clashes were neither confirmed nor denied by the SSA. All sources nevertheless agree that the expeditionary force has arrived at its destination in central Shan State.

Col Moengzuen :

Other names
Kawsanla, Mawk Zeng
Place of Birth
Tonhong Village, Kholam Tract, Namzang Township
Sai Kham Hsai, Nang Nawng
Ingta 41, Tawna aka Kherhzuen 39, Nang Yen 35
8th standard (Burmese), 3rd standard (Chinese)
Joins resistance, enlists with Yawdserk, Commander, Battalion 404
Instructor at Mong Tai Army base camp, Homong
Own command
Refuses to surrender, Joins former commander Yawdserk, designated Commander, 758th Brigade
Holds Peoples Conference in Namzang, decides to form government and declare independence.
(25 April) throws in his lot with the Interim Shan Government (ISG) .
- Burma Army launches offensives - Negotiation begins
- Shan State Army South HQ dispatches Lt-Col Pawng Kherh (300 strong) to replace him, invites him to return to base - (7 July) Rangoon announces Moengzuen returning to the legal fold with 848 men, 24 heavy weapons and 834 small arms.

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