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REUTERS_14.5.96: FIGHTINGS ESCALATE
Subject: REUTERS_14.5.96: FIGHTINGS ESCALATE IN SHAN STATE
ASIA: SHAN REFUGEES SAID FLEEING BURMESE FORCES
MAE HONG SON, Thailand, May 14 Reuter - Hundreds of ethnic Shan
refugees have fled forced relocation by Burmese armed forces acting
to cut civilian support for anti-Rangoon guerrillas, refugees and
Shan politicians said today.
The refugees, who slipped out from Burma's northeastern Shan
state to this border town, said they were forced to relocate after
heavy fighting broke out in March between remnants of the now
defunct Mong Tai Army (MTA) and Burmese forces.
The 20,000-strong MTA was formerly led by drug warlord Khun Sa,
a half-Shan, half-Chinese rebel leader who portrayed himself as a
Shan freedom fighter for more than two decades.
Khun Sa surrendered to Burmese troops on January 3 but some of
his former MTA followers held out.
The Shan rebels are fighting for independence from Burma.
"There was a lot of fighting there," said U Thieng Aung, 35, who
trekked for about a week through forests with five members of his
family to Thailand.
Hundreds of ethnic Shans who live in rural areas in the state
had either escaped to the jungles or to the Thai-Burma border after
Burmese soldiers forced them to move from their villages and
closely monitored their movements.
"The Burmese soldiers said they wanted to isolate the people
from the guerrillas because the villagers support the rebels,"
Thieng Aung told Reuters.
Veteran Shan guerrilla Khun Htaw Hta said heavy fighting was
continuing between Burmese forces and a splinter group from the
defunct MTA led by Kan Yord which had merged with another rebel
group, the Shan State Army.
"The new organisation named Shan State Peace Keeping Council
(SSPC) with 5,000 armed guerrillas has been causing a lot of
trouble for Burmese troops," he said, adding that casualty figures
were not available.
Kan Yord, a Shan nationalist and former MTA officer who had
accused Khun Sa of heavy involvement in heroin trafficking, staged
a revolt against the warlord and broke away from the MTA with
thousands of other guerrillas before Khun Sa surrendered to Burma's
Khun Sa was indicted by a US court in December 1989 on heroin
trafficking charges. Washington demands Rangoon hand over Khun Sa
to the United States and has offered a $US2 million ($A2.5 million)
reward for his capture.
Burma has refused to repatriate Khun Sa, who is said to be
living a luxurious life in Rangoon.