Aerial Assaults as Shan State Conflict Intensifies

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RANGOON — The Burmese military has launched airstrikes in a further escalation of fighting with ethnic rebels in central Shan State, where locals claim about 10,000 civilians have been forced to flee the conflict.

The Burma Army has reportedly brought in at least one helicopter gunship to attack rebel bases and nearby villages with the backing of ground troops in an intensification of an offensive that began early last month and has continued in the wake of a historic general election on Nov. 8.

A video clip uploaded to social media by the Facebook user Ying Oum Mwe purports to show a Burma Army helicopter gunship flying over Mong Hsu town and firing on Shan rebel positions and nearby villages in the eponymous township on Saturday.

Maj. Sai Hsu, a spokesperson for the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), told The Irrawaddy that fighting between his group and the Burma Army was ongoing as of Monday.

“They [government troops] keep attacking us. Today, they also flew [sorties] and shelled us. We are fighting back now,” Sai Hsu told The Irrawaddy from an area of active conflict.

Asked about casualties, Sai Hsu said he was unable to provide an estimate, but was making field observations and attempting to collect information on the ground.

Nang Charm Tong, a prominent Shan activist from the Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN), told The Irrawaddy via email that about 10,000 people have fled the conflict zone spanning Mong Hsu and Kyethi townships.

“The fighting is escalating, with the Burma Army indiscriminately shelling and shooting civilian homes, temples and temporary IDP [internally displaced person] camps. The situation has terrorized the local communities,” wrote Nang Charm Tong, adding that the Burma Army was reinforcing its troops, with at least 14 battalions deployed to the area.

Heavy artillery, fighter jets and Mi-35 helicopters were being used in the bombardment, according to the Shan activist.

Affected local populations have fled to neighboring townships, namely Lashio, Laihka and Tangyan. Local communities are helping these IDPs, but food supplies and medicine are urgently needed, Nang Charm Tong said.

Meanwhile, another ethnic rebel group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), also reported that fighting broke out last week in territories under its control in northern Shan State.

Mai Aik Kyaw, the TNLA spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that clashes had taken place over five consecutive days, from Wednesday to Sunday, near Pan Kan village in Manton Township.

“Three of our soldiers were wounded. And there were also five bodies of government soldiers,” said Mai Aik Kyaw, who added that TNLA troops had initiated hostilities with an attack on a Burma Army column marching through the group’s territory.

The government troops confronted by the TNLA were from Light Infantry Division 88, 99 and 77, under the military’s Northeastern Command.

“They [the Burma Army] set fire to villagers’ homes, so the villagers from five nearby townships are fleeing their homes,” said Mai Aik Kyaw.

The Burmese government signed a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement with eight ethnic armed groups on Oct. 15 in Naypyidaw, but neither the TNLA nor SSA-N was among the signatories. Other powerful ethnic armed groups including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and United Wa State Army (UWSA) also abstained.

Sai Nyunt Lwin, a general-secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) in Rangoon, told The Irrawaddy: “It [fighting] should not happen while Burma is now in the transition toward transferring power. It is getting worse now, even spreading into Kachin State.”

“It [the conflict] is inappropriate to end up like this [violence] as it in fact can be solved by negotiation,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin, whose SNLD won several seats in the Union Parliament and Shan State legislature on Nov. 8.

The Shan activist Nang Charm Tong said the latest government offensive indicated that “the Burma Army has no interest in peace.”

“The Naypyidaw troops have shown that they are war-mongers. Even on election day, their troops shot and killed civilians.”

An unconfirmed report stated that northern Burma’s Mohnyin, Kachin State, was also subject to airstrikes on Monday.

The Irrawaddy’s Nyein Nyein contributed reporting.

10 Responses to Aerial Assaults as Shan State Conflict Intensifies

  1. The Burmese military will create chaos/disorder by launching offensives and human rights abuses in ethnic regions until ethnic armed groups lose patience and fight back. Then it will say here come the role of the military to protect the country. This is old dirty tricks but it works for uncritical and racist Burman population and USDP members. After all the whole game is to maintain the military’s power status quo and cronies business.

  2. Look like that military is building a small house inside the big house. They launched military operation in Shan state with their own.Do they need any authorization from Govt? Anyone of MP in parliament ever come out and raise the question ?

  3. If the SSA north didn’t want more fighting why didn’t they just sign the ceasefire?

    • Yes, you are absolutely right, Govt should offer the candy to SSA exchange for surrender.

    • Because SSA North does not have faith in the on-again/off-again ceasefire agreement. Ceasefire agreement is merely an opportunity for the Burman Army to build up troop reinforcement and supplies for future attacks. This story has been played out multiple times in the past.

      At least try to come up new stories.

  4. SSA is not rebel army. we are holding gun to protect our people, rights, and our region which we have the right to do. We have the right to draw back our land.Originally we were not part of Burmese region, and we were not also ethnic under Burmese Region.It happened because of Pang Long Agreement and Burmese Military took over control of our Land.

  5. <Khun Sam is absolutely right. There is no inclination of the Military showing that they want 'peace' or genuine democracy. " Power must be in their hands, forever and ever over ethnic States. Aung san Suu Kyi is not a problem for them, but the Shan State and lesser the Kachin State are so they aim is to decimate all the resistance armies first and the people and thus the Shan State will be theirs. The Burmese/ancient times and continued into the British period. They could not understand how the diverse people could live in harmony and so their plan is by destroying all the resistance armies and people their problem will be solved and they can do what they like when the Shan State become their possession.

  6. Real concern for the post election period.

  7. Two pronged purposes. One to safe guard the natural resources for a few retirees who are the military, and the other is to give a reason to hold on to power.

    This is not the end. It can get worse, once international spotlight is off.

  8. Watch time lines and responsible people during those periods.

    Every country in the world was formed by an aggregation of different ethnics, some happy and some not so happy.

    Ethnics in Myanmar have a choice. One is to stay in warm embrace. The other is secession. The latter would be disastrous, any way you look at it. It is funny, for the first time in 60 years, we have a decent, transparent, clear headed leadership coming to the brink of partial governing. Seize opportunity and support.

    ASSK has nothing to do with the past 60 years of sufferings. She herself suffered. We do not like to flare up old wounds. We forgive past mishaps. Let us march on to a free and prosperous nation. People are like MIRRORS. Smile, they will smile back.

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