In June 2020, Over 800 Burma Army troops have been deployed to eastern Mong Hsat in June 2020, reinforcing bases along the Thai border around Loi Kaw Wan IDP camp. This is causing fear among the over 2,500 IDPs, already facing severe hardship due to the Covid-19 border lockdown.
The troops arrived by truck and on foot from different parts of Eastern Shan State, including Mong Phyak, Ta Ler and Tachileik.
This is increasing military tension with the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), who the Burma Army has attacked several times in recent months in central and southern Shan State.
The Burma Army expansion is linked to securing Naypyidaw’s economic interests in this area — including large-scale gold concessions granted to Australian/Chinese mining companies in eastern Shan State, and the Mong Kok coal mine, invested in by Thailand’s Sahakol SQ. The eastern Mong Hsat area is already heavily militarized by the Burma Army and its allied militia, as well as the United Wa State Army.
Drug eradication as a pretext for Burma Army expansion
The pretext given by the Burma Army for recent troop deployment in Mong Hsat is drug eradication. On June 18, 2020, the Burma Army announced seizure of two stashes of drugs worth over 370,000 USD near Bunako, base of a pro-government militia notorious for drug production. Locals doubt the authenticity of this seizure, as the drugs were just found in sacks in the jungle, and no one was arrested.