Army Enters the Fray around Namtu, Clashing with TNLA

By Lawi Weng 11 May 2018

YANGON—Clashes broke out between the Myanmar Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in three different parts of Namtu Township yesterday. The rebel group claimed four government soldiers were killed in the fighting, although this could not be immediately verified.

“The (Tatmadaw troops) entered an area where the TNLA and SSPP fought each other last week,” said TNLA spokesperson Col. Tar Aike Kyaw.

He said the Myanmar Army had deployed a lot of soldiers around three villages — Mang Ain, Kon Mong and Nar Lay — that were the scene of the fighting between the two armed ethnic groups last week. According to the TNLA, four Myanmar Army soldiers were killed in the fighting near Mang Ain village between 9:25 and 10: 25 am (local time).

Namtu is in northern Shan State, near Lashio. Many ethnic armed groups including the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), TNLA, and Kachin Independence Army have bases in Namtu Township.

Hostilities often break out between the RCSS and TNLA, but more recently the TNLA and SSPP have battled each other following territorial disputes.

The TNLA reported that there was a misunderstanding among the ground forces last week, resulting in the clash. But, the TNLA withdrew its troops following the fighting although tension remains high between the two members of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), an alliance of seven armed ethnic groups in the northeast of the country.

According to Col. Tar Aike Kyaw, the recent fighting means the TNLA has to had open three fronts in Namtun Township, against the Myanmar Army, the SSPP, and the RCSS.

The clash with a joint force made up of Infantry Divisions 77 and 88 broke out after the army deployed many men in Namtu township, according to the TNLA.

“We are watching each other’s troop movements at the moment. Tension is high,” Col. Tar Aike Kyaw said.

Namtu has been home to over 1,000 of IDPs since fighting broke out in 2011 between the KIA and the Myanmar Army. Ethnic Kachin fled first from their villages and came to the town. Later, ethnic Palaung were forced to seek sanctuary in the town when the TNLA and Myanmar Army started fighting in 2014. Then Shan and Lahu villagers were forced to flee when the TNLA and RCSS clashed in 2016.

UN agencies are not able to provide food to IDPs, forcing these displaced villagers to rely on donations from local people in northern Shan. The government has also failed to provide food to the IDPs, according to IDP camp leaders.