After suffering heavy casualties in recent clashes with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Shan State, the Myanmar regime claims it was targeting People’s Defense Forces (PDFs), not the TNLA.
Clashes between regime troops and the TNLA broke out in Namhsan on December 7. The TNLA is fighting for autonomy for the ethnic Palaung or Ta’ang people in northern Shan State.
On Dec. 17, junta-controlled media said the two sides had reached an agreement after the regime explained it was targeting PDFs, the armed wing of the parallel National Unity Government, and that recent clashes with the TNLA resulted from a misunderstanding.
Regime forces said they had seized dead bodies of PDF fighters along with their weapons in clashes, while also admitting to suffering some casualties.
The TNLA said that on Dec. 7 about 200 junta troops were airlifted to a location close to Konethar Village, which they believed housed TNLA headquarters. Junta infantry then attempted to raid nearby villages but were besieged by TNLA forces.
After six days of intense fighting, the TNLA gained control of four villages from junta forces, according to TNLA spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tar Aik Kyaw.
The regime reportedly carried out around 30 airstrikes in an attempt to rescue junta infantry trapped in the failed attack.
Lt-Col Tar Aik Kyaw could not confirm casualty numbers, but a source close to TNLA fighters on the ground said at least 70 junta soldiers were killed and 28 captured by the TNLA.
The TNLA on Sunday rejected the regime’s statement, saying that junta troops had not seized weapons from either the TNLA or PDFs in the failed attack.