YANGON — Two ethnic armed groups, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), have denied allegations that they were jointly plotting to target public buildings with explosives in northern Shan State’s Lashio.
On June 8, police distributed pamphlets to Lashio residents alleging that the KIA and the TNLA were planning to detonate bombs in the town. Police also drove around the city and warned the public of the bomb alert over a loudspeaker.
“The KIA would not commit any violent acts in public spaces that might cause panic; we don’t have such a policy,” KIA spokesperson Lt-Col Naw Bu told The Irrawaddy.
“I think the Tatmadaw was deliberately misinforming the public in order to put the blame on the KIA or the TNLA for bomb attacks which it was planning to launch,” he added.
“We have no plan to attack public spaces. We’ve never done that. Yes, there are ongoing clashes with the army, but we won’t ever target the public,” TNLA spokesperson Col. Mai Ai Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.
The Myanmar Army pamphlet alleged that the KIA had dispatched six men and four women to carry out explosions in order to cause damage to lives and property of civilians in Lashio.
About 20 bomb experts dispatched by the TNLA were also searching for potential targets, it claimed.
Daw Khin Khin Mar, a grocery store owner in Lashio, told The Irrawaddy: “My son brought home the pamphlet which he said was being distributed in the streets. I heard the police warning that night. Besides this, we have heard nothing [about the attacks]. So far, the town is peaceful.”
The pamphlet said that explosions might target markets, bus terminals, railway stations and government offices. It also included the contact information of Col. Kyaw Than Swe, a tactical commander of the Myanmar Army, for the public to reach out to if they noticed suspicious persons.
When asked by The Irrawaddy, the Lashio Township police force said the bomb alert came from the army and that police were put on alert in response.
The Irrawaddy was unable to contact Col. Kyaw Than Swe on the numbers provided on the pamphlet, or Tatmadaw press officers.
In May, businesspeople in Lashio reported to the police that they had received letters demanding “tax” with a bullet in each envelope, allegedly sent by the TNLA.
On March 6, troops of the KIA, TNLA, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Arakan Army (AA)—known as the Northern Alliance—launched attacks on military and police outposts in Laukkai Township, killing more than 30 and forcing more than 10,000 locals and migrant workers from their homes.
On Nov. 20 last year, the Northern Alliance attacked 105 Mile Border Trade Zone and Mongko Township in Shan State, killing more than 40 civilians.
The KIA and TNLA have refused to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government, and are members of the seven-member Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), formed in April to discuss alternatives to the NCA with the government to join the country’s peace process.
The Shan State Parliament in December last year branded the KIA, TNLA, AA and MNDAA as terrorist groups.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.