Burma

Militia Leader, Wife Dead in Alleged Rebel Attack in Northeast Myanmar

By Htet Naing Zaw 21 August 2019

NAYPYITAW—A militia leader and his wife were killed in an attack by rebel fighters in the village of Mong Yang near Lashio, in Myanmar’s Shan State, on Tuesday evening, according to military spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun.

“[Rebel fighters] attacked Mong Yang Village with grenades and 40 mm mortars around 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening. The militia leader and his wife died and their houses burned down. I learned that the Northern Alliance was responsible for it,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

Clashes have intensified in Shan State after three of the four rebel groups that comprise the Northern Alliance (NA)—the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Arakan Army (AA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—launched attacks on a military academy in Mandalay Region’s Pyin Oo Lwin and on police stations in Shan State’s Naung Cho on Aug. 15, killing nine Myanmar military soldiers, three police officers and three civilians.

The fourth NA member group, the Kachin Independence Army, has reportedly not been involved in the attacks or the new waves of fighting.

“I was told over the phone that Mong Yang militia leader U Win Maung was killed by TNLA fighters. Both he and his wife were shot dead. I don’t know details,” Shan State Police chief Pol. Brig-Gen Zaw Khin Aung told The Irrawaddy.

There used to be a police station in Mong Yang Village but it had closed down, he said.

“We can’t go there for the time being,” he said, calling access to the site for on-the-ground inspection “impossible.”

“We have to work with the existing police force. There were police casualties in the Goke Twin incident; there have been none since then,” he said, referring to one of the Aug. 15 attacks that killed police officers and destroyed a bridge vital to domestic travel and international trade.

Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw of the TNLD denied having any knowledge of the attack but declined to comment any further.

On Aug. 18, two days before U Win Maung’s death, the NA issued a warning telling local people’s militias in the conflict zone—some of whom are allied with the Tatmadaw—not to take part in the fighting and not to stand with the Tatmadaw.

In their warning, the NA said they would respond with arms to anyone fighting alongside the Tatmadaw.

Lower House lawmaker Sai Wan Hlaing Kham, of Shan State, said it is common in the area to have militia leaders living in every village, and that he’d heard that U Win Maung had been killed in his home.

He said lawmakers plan to travel to the area to comfort displaced persons.

Lashio locals said that, while some militia groups were established solely for the protection of their communities, others are powerful, business-operating organizations that transitioned from ethnic armed groups to Tatmadaw-allied people’s militias in 2010.

The Union government and the Tatmadaw believe rebel attacks were staged in retaliation to Tatmadaw raids on illicit drug production sites in villages in Kutkai Township, in Shan State.

The NA denies this, insisting the attacks were staged to counter increased military pressure from the Myanmar military in their own areas of control.

Pol. Brig-Gen Zaw Khin Aung said he accepted the Tatmadaw’s view.

“The situation has become this bad due to reactions from drug raids,” he said.

The Tatmadaw said at least ten rebel fighters have been killed in clashes.

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