Burma Army on the Move in Northern Shan State, Clashes Reported: TNLA

By Lawi Weng & Khin Oo Tha 26 February 2016

Hundreds of Burma Army troops have reportedly been deployed to areas of northern Shan State where the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) operates, according to the armed group.

Tar Bang Hla, a communications officer with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), said up to 2,000 Burma Army troops were deployed in recent days in the wake of recent clashes between the TNLA and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S).

“They have come since Feb. 23 and they are in our control area now. For us, we will not withdraw our troops. We will use our defensive forces [if necessary],” he said.

A clash was reported in Kutkai Township on Thursday between the Burma Army and the TNLA, according to a report issued by the Ta’ang armed group. Video footage posted online by residents of Lashio purports to show army trucks carrying troops and military provisions to Namhsan.

There will be more fighting in our area as more of their troops are coming, Tar Bang Hla said.

Fighting intensified between the Ta’ang and Shan armed groups earlier this month, displacing over 3,000 civilians in Kyaukme Township and over 1,000 civilians in Namkham Township, according to the UN’s humanitarian body.

Hostilities first flared in November, one month after eight armed groups signed the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement with the central government. The SSA-S was among the signatories while the TNLA was sidelined by Naypyidaw from the negotiations.

An article in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Wednesday, quoting the defense ministry, said government troops were conducting “combined operations in Shan State,” without elaborating.

Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Center told The Irrawaddy that the Tatmadaw, Burma’s armed forces, wanted both ethnic armed groups to return to their “respective territories… Otherwise, the Tatmadaw will clear them out.”

The TNLA has repeatedly accused the SSA-S of cooperating with the Burma Army—allegations refuted by the Shan force.

Col. Robert, who heads the TNLA’s Brigade 2 in Kyaukme, claimed the group was attacked by both government troops and the SSA-S, also referred to by its political arm, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), during recent conflict.

“Our troops were in the middle. We had to fight both sides,” he alleged. “They play a very dirty game the Burma Army. They came at the back of our troops to attack us while we fought the RCSS.”