In strategic shift, Myanmar Army occupies NSCN Khaplang HQs

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Naga Republic News & Analysis

 

In a major strategic move, having both political and security ramification along the Indo-Myanmar international boundary, the Myanmar Army has taken control of the headquarters of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) in the Naga Self-Administered Zone of Sagaing Region without a shot being fired.

 

U Kyaw Wan Sein, a member of the NSCN-K’s Central Executive Committee, told Chit Min Tun of The Irrawaddy that the group withdrew its troops and let the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) occupy its headquarters in order not to disrupt the peace process between it and the government.

 

According to The Naga Republic this latest development appears to be a well coordinated move of the security establishment in both Myanmar and India with the larger aim to take control of the Naga peace process within the respective country.

 

Not only that the NSCN Khaplang Headquarter is also a safe haven for other armed groups of Northeast India such as Assam’s ULFA and Manipur’s UNLF beside others. It will be of interest to watch the impact of this latest military move of the Myanmar army.

 

It may be mentioned that the Khango Konyak led NSCN group recently joined the Indo-Naga peace process under New Delhi’s Interlocutor RN Ravi. The Government of India is attempting to conclude the decades long peace talks involving several Naga political groups.

 

Bringing the NSCN Khaplang group to the negotiating table was seen as the last hurdle for New Delhi to hammer out a political settlement that was inclusive of all major Naga armed groups. The NSCN Khaplang had abrogated its long held ceasefire with Delhi and was subsequently banned.

 

Interestingly, Khango was till very recently heading the NSCN Khaplang group after the demise of its supremo SS Khaplang.  Khango was removed from his leadership position by the Myanmar based NSCN Khaplang and along with his followers given safe passage to India. This paved the way for the India based NSCN under Khango Konyak to return to ceasefire and eventually joining the dialogue with India.

 

Meanwhile as reported in The Irrawaddy, a military column consisting of over 400 troops from six battalions led by the Hkamti District tactical commander under the Tatmadaw’s North-West Command took control of the NSCN-K’s headquarters in the village of Ta Ga in Nanyun Township on Tuesday (January 29).

 

“We let them in because the peace process between us and the Myanmar government will be damaged if there are gunshots and artillery fire. So, we let them in. We withdrew,” U Kyaw Wan Sein, the member of the NSCN-K’s Central Executive Committee, told The Irrawaddy.

 

Members of the NSCN-K’s Peace Committee and some unarmed members of the group remain at the headquarters, he said.

 

Executive U Kasi Rang of the Naga Self-administered Zone Leading Body said he did not know why the Myanmar Army sent troops to the NSCN-K headquarters.

 

“It can be said they have occupied it. There were no casualties or injuries,” he told The Irrawaddy.

 

The Tatmadaw declined to described the operation as an “occupation”. North-West Command spokesman Colonel Than Naing told The Irrawaddy: “We will let you know when the time is appropriate. I am not yet authorized to provide details. But it is not that we have occupied their headquarters.”

 

The NSCN-K signed a regional-level truce with the government in April 2012. It has no plan to relocate its headquarters, because it was established with the agreement of both sides, Kyaw Wan Sein said.

 

The Myanmar government has urged the NSCN-K to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), but the armed group has told The Irrawaddy it would not sign unless and until it reaches an agreement that can cover all the Naga people who live in northeast India and Myanmar.

 

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland was founded in 1980 with the aim of establishing a sovereign Naga State. It split into two factions in 1988: the NSCN-K led by S. S. Khaplang, which is based in Myanmar, and the NSCN-IM led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muviah, which is based in India. S. S. Khaplang died in 2017.

 

According to Indian media, NSCN-IM entered into a ceasefire agreement in 1997 and has maintained it since then. The pact with NSCN-K was broken after the group attacked a military convoy in Manipur in June 2015, killing 18 soldiers.

 

On the Myanmar side, there have been no clashes between the Myanmar Army and the NSCN-K since 2000. However, last July the North-West Command warned then NSCN-K chairman Khango Konyak not to operate outside its territory. The group was forced to give up one of its toll gates.

 

The NSCN-K toppled its chairman Khango Konyak in a meeting the following month, and elected Yung Aung, the nephew of late leader Khaplang, to the chairman’s position.

 

(With inputs from  The Irrawaddy)

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