Clashes in Shan State Kill 4 Govt Soldiers, Ethnic Militia Claims

By Kyaw Kha 21 June 2013

An ethnic Palaung armed group claims that it has killed four Burma government soldiers during clashes in Kutkai Township in northern Shan State in recent days.

Tah Wein Mao, a captain with the Taaung National Liberation Army (TNLA), said that early Wednesday morning his soldiers had fought close-range gun battles for about two hours with the Burmese military’s Battalion No.145, which is based in the town of Kunlon, Taunggyi Township.

“The battle has been continuing. There were four casualties on the military side during the previous days of fighting,” he told The Irrawaddy by phone on Thursday.

Tah Wein Mao claimed that government soldiers were trying to capture the TNLA’s No.112 outpost, located near Ngawh Ngan village in Kutkia Township.

Captain Mine Aung, a TNLA spokesperson, said the military had launched a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades on the TNLA outpost that lasted for two hours.

Inhabitants of Ngawh Ngan village, which reportedly has about 170 houses, have fled due to the fighting.

“The villagers fled in fright. They are hiding at the places far from the village, bringing some food with them. Some went to Nam Phaka Village to take shelter at their relatives’ homes. Other villages near here are also worried. The battle is continuing,” Captain Mine Aung said.

He added that battles between the TNLA and government forces first began about one week ago.

According to reports, the same two units also clashed on June 14 near Lone Kam village in Kutkai Township, while the TNLA’s Battalion No.256 fought with the military’s Battalion No.114 on June 15 near the town of Namsan.

The TNLA — a group that represents the Palaung, a small ethnic group living in northern Shan State not far from the border with China — is believed to have a strategic military alliance with both the Kachin Independence Army and the Shan State Progress Party (Shan State Army-North).

The rebel groups have been locked in a decades-long guerilla war with the central government. The TNLA supposedly has seven regiments with about 1,300 soldiers under its command, and is said to enjoy popular support among the local ethnic Palaung.