Hundreds Trapped on Highway in N. Shan as TNLA Fights Military

By Lawi Weng 5 August 2019

More than 200 commuters were trapped on a highway in Shan State’s Kutkai Township on Monday by fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw). Fighting erupted in the area on Sunday and continued Monday morning, according to local sources.

The fighting is located near Maw Ham and Tar Moe Nye villages, Major Tar Aike Kyaw, a spokesperson for the TNLA, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

It first broke out in Maw Ham on Sunday between the TNLA and the Myanmar Army’s Light Infantry Battalion 419 under the control of Light Infantry Division 99.

The TNLA said it attacked Tar Moe Nye village as it houses a base set up by the Myanmar Army’s Light Infantry Battalion 290, which recently moved into the area as reinforcements, the TNLA said.

“Fighting started at 2:25 p.m. and ended at 7 p.m. local time [Sunday]. Fighting resumed [Monday] morning at 6:25 a.m. and lasted until 10 a.m in two locations in an area near [Sunday’s] fighting,” Maj. Tar Aike Kyaw said.

He said the TNLA did not sustain any casualties, but he did not know about Tatmadaw casualties.

The welcome sign to Kutkai, Shan State / Kutkai Township / Facebook

The TNLA closed the highway from Kutkai to Tar Moe Nyi amid heavy fighting, according to local sources.

San Aung, team leader from the Halo Trust, a U.K.-based non-governmental organization that helps landmine victims in northern Shan State, reported that over 200 people were trapped by the fighting near Maw Ham.

Three members of the Halo Trust who went educate Maw Ham villagers about landmines were among those trapped, he said.

“They [the TNLA] told us it was not safe to travel. They closed the highway at 8 a.m. We are trapped here. No one can travel. There are over 30 cars and motorbikes that cannot move,” San Aung said.

Over 200 people were trapped on the highway just outside Maw Ham village, he said. He described the location as a paddy field with no houses or restaurants nearby from which to buy food.

“We have water only. Some people have eaten food they had with them in their cars, but there are people with no food,” he said, adding that there were young children among the trapped commuters.

The trapped group is about 4 to 5 miles from where the TNLA and Myanmar Army are fighting, he said.

“We could hear their artillery shelling. We have even been able to hear their heavy machine guns firing,” he said.

Before leaving on the journey, San Aung said, “We asked some villagers [on Monday] morning about the situation. The villagers told us that the situation was fine. Therefore, we made the trip,” he said.

“They [the TNLA] won’t let us turn back or go forward. They just said to stay here,” he said.

Fighting is ongoing between the TNLA and the Myanmar Army in northern Shan State despite the Myanmar Army’s unilateral ceasefire across five regional commands in Kachin and Shan states.

Fighting between the Myanmar Army and the TNLA broke out 20 times in June and 11 times in July.

“More fighting is likely as they [the Tatmadaw] have become more active in our area,” Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw from the TNLA said.

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