Monk Among Civilians Wounded as Fighting Continues in Myanmar’s Shan State

By Lawi Weng 14 November 2019

Four civilians including a Buddhist monk were wounded in Kutkai, Shan State, amid ongoing fighting between the Myanmar army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), according to local sources.

On Wednesday two motorbike drivers, including one monk, were shot in their legs and on Thursday morning a Kutkai private school teacher and his driver were wounded.

The teacher, Lai Nang, was being treated at the hospital in Kutkai along with his driver and spoke about his experience.

“We were driving our car to pick up students for our school. We saw one soldier standing on the roadside point his finger at our car. We were still driving when he shot at us,” said Lai Nang.

Lai Nang was wounded in the back of the head and his driver was wounded in the neck, where a piece of the car window hit him.

The victims did not know which armed group the soldier was from, as Lai Nang said they drove on the opposite side of the street from the soldier and he couldn’t see very well from a distance.

“There were even other cars driving on the highway. I do not know why he shot our car,” said Lai Nang.

The incident occurred on the highway near Loi Sam Sik mountain.

In a separate incident, the Metta Shin Social Service Association in Kutkai reported that on Wednesday it rescued one Buddhist monk and one civilian who were driving their motorcycles when they were shot and wounded in Mong Yu Village, Kutkai Township.

A member of the association told The Irrawaddy that the two were driving on the highway, traveling to another village. The two were shot when they tried to cross into an area where the TNLA and the Myanmar army were fighting.

“We sent them to the hospital in Kutkai, then transferred them to the hospital in Muse,” said a member of the association.

Fighting between the TNLA and the Myanmar army been ongoing in Kutkai and Kyaukme townships. At least two violent clashes broke out in Kutkai and Kyaukme on Thursday morning, according to some local sources.

Kham Mat, a resident of Kutkai, said that all traffic stopped on the road near Kaung Ker Village, in Kutkai Township, around 7 a.m. this morning when fighting broke out. She said that cars were able to leave at around 3 p.m.

While fighting between ethnic groups and the Myanmar military has been ongoing for years, recent violence has been more intense in ethnic areas and drawn frequent accusations of human rights abuses against ethnic populations.

The TNLA is a member of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups, along with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). Some in the Northern Alliance have recently changed their military strategy to focus on waging war in towns and villages instead of in the jungle. The shift is intended to help people in the villages and towns understand how war affects many people’s daily lives.

TNLA Brigadier-General Tar Phone Kyaw wrote on Facebook over the weekend that the ethnic armed groups have adopted this new viewpoint and have begun to wage war in the towns where Myanmar army bases are located. He also wrote that all people need to participate in the peace process in order for it to achieve its goal.

“We risk our soldiers’ lives and have come to wage war in towns because we want people to understand how our ethnic people have been suffering when fighting breaks out in our ethnic areas,” he wrote.