Fighting Escalates in Northern Shan State as Peace Conference Looms

By Lawi Weng 9 May 2017

RANGOON — Fighting has escalated between the Burma Army and the Northern Alliance in northern Shan State just weeks before the second session of the 21st Century Panglong conference, to begin on May 24 with the aim of establishing peace with the country’s ethnic armed groups.

Northern Alliance member the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) stated that fighting has occurred almost daily in the Kokang region since April 27. Fellow member Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) reported 20 separate clashes with the Burma Army within the last two weeks.

The TNLA stated its brigades 1 and 3 clashed four times with Burmese military troops yesterday in Mong Ton Township, where the Burma Army’s Infantry Division 88 launched an offensive after the Thingyan water festival, and the fighting continued this morning.

“[The Burma Army] is carrying out heavy operations against the TNLA/PSLF [Palaung State Liberation Front], and the MNDAA,” Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw, General Secretary of the TNLA and Northern Alliance spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy.

“We will keep fighting back. We have no choice. We will just defend ourselves using guerrilla warfare.

“The Burma Army plans to diminish Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership of the second Panglong conference and its politics. They create war against peace to show that the power is in their hands,” he added.

The Northern Alliance, which also comprises the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Arakan Army (AA), stated that it had been fighting the Tatmadaw all day yesterday and today in Kokang. Burmese military troops, it added, were using artillery to shell an MNDAA base.

The military-run Ministry of Defense stated on May 7 that a grenade shot by the TNLA wounded three civilians in Namkham Township.

The Burma Army has refused to hold peace talks with the MNDAA, the TNLA, and the AA, stating that the three groups formed after the quasi-civilian government took office in 2011.