Ethnic Armed Groups Launch Joint Offensive in Northern Shan State

By Lawi Weng 20 November 2016

LASHIO, Shan State — Ethnic armed groups launched three attacks on Burma Army and police posts in northern Shan State’s Muse Township early Sunday morning.

Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) secretary Col. Tar Bong Kyaw told The Irrawaddy on Sunday that two TNLA battalions under Brigade 5 attacked border police and Burma Army posts in Muse Economic Zone and that five police were wounded and guns were seized.

“Our troops continue to attack other Burma Army bases there,” he said.

A joint force of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Arakan Army (AA) troops attacked at Mong Ko town at 3 a.m. and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) attacked at Juku Pang Sai at 6 a.m., he said.

Fighting continued Sunday with roads closed and local residents fleeing across the Chinese border due to the fighting, according to local sources. “We could hear artillery shelling from here,” said Zu Shan from Shan State’s Tachileik Township.

A resident of Muse Township’s Nang Og village told The Irrawaddy that one of her friends had been wounded in the village close to Muse Economic Zone and was in serious condition.

An Irrawaddy reporter saw two military helicopters and many trucks carrying Burma Army troops at the airport in northern Shan State’s largest town, Lashio, on Sunday afternoon.

The reporter was told by soldiers to stop taking photos as they were “preparing for a military operation.”

The four ethnic armed groups have formed an alliance against the Burma Army. None of the groups have signed the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and KIA were the only group to attend the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference—also called the Union Peace Conference—held in late August.

The TNLA’s Col. Tar Bong Kyaw said that the Sunday attack came because of recent Burma Army offensives against the ethnic armed groups.

“The Burma Army has launched a lot of military offensives in ethnic areas. For the TNLA, it has become hard to be based in the jungle,” he said.

The Burma Army and the KIA have also regularly clashed since a KIA offensive in September.

Sunday’s attack also had political motivations, Col. Tar Bong Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.

The Burma Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy government should be working towards genuine peace and should not ignore fighting in ethnic areas, he said.

Col. Tar Bong Kyaw said he wanted the international community to know that “ethnic groups cannot hide in the jungle any more—the time has come to fight in the towns.”