Myanmar Military and Ethnic Armed Groups Clash Close to Border With China

By The Irrawaddy 9 August 2021

Ethnic armed groups from the Northern Alliance clashed with junta soldiers close to the border with China in northern Shan State last week, forcing hundreds of villagers to flee their homes.

Fighters from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) ambushed the Myanmar military with mines on the Pansai–Mongkoe Road in Muse Township, Shan State on August 3.

Regime troops retaliated with artillery attacks the following day, destroying five civilian homes in Phai Kawng village in Pansai. Gunfire could still be heard on August 6, according to local villagers.

A home in Phai Kawng Village hit by regime artillery fire on Aug. 4. / CJ

Tensions between junta soldiers and the MNDAA have been escalating in Pansai and Mongkoe since the second week of July. Mongkoe borders Kongyan Township in the self-administered Kokang region, where the MNDAA is based.

“The MNDAA is joining the KIA in the fight as the KIA is our ally and the clash is not primarily between the MNDAA and the military regime,” said MNDAA spokesperson Phone Win Naing.

He added that the clashes started when regime troops encroached into the territory of the Northern Alliance and told their troops to leave the area.

“We told the regime soldiers that we don’t want fighting these days,” said Phone Win Naing. The MNDAA expects further clashes as the Myanmar military is continuing operations in Pansai and Mongkoe.

Along with the MNDAA and the KIA, the Northern Alliance includes two other ethnic armed organizations: the Arakan Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

However, KIA spokesperson Colonel Naw Bu denied that the KIA had joined forces with the MNDAA to fight junta forces in Pansai and Mongkoe, saying that it is “not a joint military operation”.

Col. Naw Bu said, “We have been involved in frequent fighting in those areas before. However, since July, the fighting has been between the MNDAA and the Myanmar military. As we are based in the same territory, if there is fighting, the KIA troops might have been involved”.

With tensions running high in the area, some 170 villagers from 43 households of Mant Yang and Bant Mway villages in Mongkoe remain displaced.

Displaced villagers from Pansai erect temporary shelters near the Myanmar-China border in early August. / CJ

One refugee, who is also a relief worker helping displaced people, said that residents of Mant Yang village fled when the fighting came close on July 28. “The fighting kept going on,” he said.

Some 200 villagers from Phai Kawng, Kha Lan and Bawng Ra villages in Pansai have also fled their homes due to the fighting and are sheltering near the Myanmar-China frontier.

A displaced villager told The Irrawaddy that his family of six were forced to flee after their village was hit by regime artillery fire.

“We fled because there were fighting and we were worried about our safety. We have nothing here and now we are building huts,” he said.

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