Ethnic Ta’ang rebels claim to have clashed with a joint force of Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) and Burma Army troops several times since Nov. 27 in Namhkam and Manton townships, near the China border.
Members of the SSA-S, the armed wing of the Shan State Restoration Council (RCSS), had crossed into frontline territory and opened fire, according to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
TNLA spokesperson Mai Aie Kyaw told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the cause of the trespass was still unclear, but that the group viewed the Burma Army as the instigators of the conflict.
“We are not sure about their intentions, but the fighting broke out after the RCSS signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement,” he said. “They [the Burma Army] are creating the fighting. They fought alongside the RCSS on the frontline.”
The spokesperson said that, once sparked, the fighting continued intermittently, adding that clashes “were going on all day” on Monday. Casualties occurred on both sides of the conflict, according to a statement issued by the TNLA on Facebook. Mai Aie Kyaw added that at least three Ta’ang soldiers had been injured.
The RCSS was one of eight non-state armed groups to sign a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government on Oct. 15. The TNLA was among three rebel groups that was deemed ineligible to sign the accord by the government. Exclusion of those groups prompted seven others to abstain from the agreement.
Mai Aie Kyaw said conflict had intensified in Mong Wee, Namhkam, after Burma Army Light Infantry Divisions 88 and 77 had assisted Shan rebels by launching artillery fire into TNLA territory.
The spokesperson also said that the RCSS had been warned repeatedly not to enter TNLA grounds, but the troops defied the order and opened fire on Ta’ang soldiers on Nov. 27. The Burma Army joined the SSA-S the following day and has remained since.
The Burma Army was not available for comment, though Maj. Sai Hla of the SSA-S was reached by The Irrawaddy on Tuesday afternoon. The officer said he “didn’t know” about the conflict because he was traveling.
“I can’t comment as I didn’t know about it. I’m afraid to give wrong information because I don’t have any information,” Sai Hla said.