Fresh Clashes Erupt Between Ethnic Factions in Shan State

By Kyaw Kha 3 May 2016

Fierce clashes erupted between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in eastern Burma’s Shan State on Sunday, according to representatives from the two warring ethnic groups.

The hostilities marked the latest round of fighting in an armed conflict that first broke out in late November last year.

“[The TNLA troops] attacked our forces in the villages of Hseng Leng and Lwel Hweng, at the border of Mantong and Mongwi,” RCSS spokesperson Lt-Col Hseng Murng told reporters on Monday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where his group was meeting with the Karen National Union (KNU), another ethnic armed group. “They launched the attacks in the morning of May 1, and the attacks continued almost the entire day. On May 2, the fighting started before 6:00 am.”

Casualty figures for either side were not immediately clear.

The RCSS signed the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with Burma’s previous government in October, but the TNLA did not.

The TNLA claims the RCSS was previously operating in northern Shan State with a battalion of just 100 soldiers, but then after signing the NCA, the Shan armed group stepped up its recruitment efforts, expanding its presence in the area. This has made clashes unavoidable, according to Tar Pan La, the foreign affairs representative of the TNLA.

“The RCSS has increased their activities and our territory has shrunk to avoid [RCSS troops],” Tar Pan La said. “This has made our territory more difficult to control.”

In February, the Burma Army warned the RCSS to withdraw its troops to its own territory following the first round of fighting with the TNLA, but this directive does not appear to have been heeded.

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a nine-member alliance of ethnic armed groups, has attempted to mediate the two warring groups’ territorial feud, to no avail.