MON STATE — Twelve Myanmar Army troops and one Restoration Council of Shan State soldier have been killed in this week’s armed clashes in Mong Kung Township, according to separate reports from the organization and an aligned media outlet on Friday. An undisclosed number of RCSS troops have been injured, according to a spokesperson for the group.
Four days of fighting in Mong Kung have also forced hundreds of ethnic Shan to flee their villages, according to local sources.
The casualty figures were reported by both the RCSS and Tai Freedom, a local media organization under its control.
The RCSS also claimed to have seized some equipment from Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) units, including a drone and artillery shield.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sai Oo, a spokesperson from the RCSS, confirmed to The Irrawaddy on Friday that according to RCSS troops, there had been casualties on the Tatmadaw side.
“Our ground troops’ reports are not much different to [Tai Freedom’s] reports,” Lt-Col Sai Oo said.
He said one of his organization’s troops was killed and a number were wounded.
The fighting began on July 9 and continued through Thursday, he said.
Tai Freedom serves as the RCSS’s information department. It has reported daily since July 9 on fighting between the Myanmar Army and RCSS in Mong Kung. It has published photos showing RCSS members with seized military equipment.
Tatmadaw aircraft have been seen in the area, but they have apparently only been used to observe the conflict zone and have not fired on RCSS positions, according to a July 12 report from Tai Freedom.
Growing numbers of local ethnic Shan have fled their villages near the conflict zone, which is about 10 miles from Mong Kung town.
Local aide groups put the number of IDPs at over 600 and said they were all sheltering at a Buddhist monastery in Mong Kung Township.
“The situation is deteriorating for IDPs, as the fighting continued [on Thursday],” said a local resident from Mong Kung township who visited an IDP camp Thursday and donated some food there.
Most IDPs fled their villages suddenly and were unable to take food with them, he said.
Some local groups have distributed food to the IDPs, he added.
The RCSS is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Some of its leaders are currently attending the ongoing third session of the 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference in Naypyitaw, even as their troops clash with the Tatmadaw in Shan State.
The location of the line of demarcation between the zones controlled by the Tatmadaw and the RCSS remains disputed, despite the two sides having signed a bilateral agreement to delineate a boundary, and despite the RCSS’s signing of the NCA in 2015.
This has led to occasional clashes, usually involving the Tatmadaw attempting to push the RCSS out of territory it claims is disputed.
Just prior to the latest round of fighting, the Myanmar Army warned RCSS troops to return to their old bases from areas in southern Shan that the Tatmadaw claims the group is not permitted to operate in under the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
More Myanmar Army troops have been deployed in RCSS areas recently, and the Tatmadaw has engaged in some large troop movements according to the ethnic organization. The Tatmadaw attack that led to the latest round of fighting was directly related to its warning last week, according to Lt-Col Sai Oo.