CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Deadly clashes have broken out between the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Shan State, according to a spokesperson for the Palaung armed group.
Three TNLA soldiers died and two were wounded after fighting, which first broke out on Jan. 17, according to Mai Ai Kyaw, a spokesperson for the Ta’ang group. He said conflict had occurred in Kyaukme, Hsipaw and Namhsan townships in northern Shan State.
“We clashed because RCSS [Restoration Council of Shan State] troops trespassed on our territory. Clashes will end if the RCSS go back to their territory in southern Shan State,” Mai Ai Kyaw said.
The Ta’ang spokesperson claimed that the SSA-S, the armed wing of the RCSS, had sought to claim new territory since signing the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in mid-October. He also alleged that Burma Army troops had supported the Shan armed group in recent fighting.
In late November, the TNLA also claimed that their troops had clashed with a joint force of SSA-S and Burma Army troops on multiple occasions in Namhkam and Manton townships, near the border with China.
On the recent hostilities, Lt-Col Sai Mein, a SSA-S spokesperson, said his group was not the aggressor but had defended itself against a surprise TNLA attack.
“Clashes broke out as the TNLA ambushed our military columns on their way back to stations from our headquarters. We don’t understand why they launched an attack on us,” Sai Mein said.
The spokesperson also refuted allegations the Shan armed group was being supported by Burma’s military. He said the area of recent clashes was formerly controlled by the Shan State National Army and that SSA-S troops have been present there for some time.
In an interview with The Irrawaddy last month, RCSS chairman Lt-Gen Yawd Serk also rejected claims of cooperation with the Burma Army as “totally false.”
The SSA-S was one of eight non-state armed groups that inked the NCA last year. Several other major ethnic armed groups opted against signing, chiefly on the grounds that three armed groups, including the TNLA, were excluded from the agreement.
Translated by Thet Ko Ko.