The Myanmar army, or Tatmadaw, suffered an undisclosed number of casualties—including an officer—during clashes with troops from the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army near Loi Twan Hill in Mong Kai Township, Shan State on Thursday, according to a military spokesman.
Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the military troops were attacked as they patrolled in Mong Kai Township, which is some 16 kilometers west of Kyesi Township.
He said the casualties included fatalities and injuries, but didn’t say how many there were or whether the officer was killed or wounded. He denied that Tatmadaw troops had attacked the RCSS soldiers.
The RCSS, which is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), said in a statement on Friday that some 400 troops from four Tatmadaw battalions (Nos. 525, 520, 575 and 574) attacked their camp on Loi Twan Hill starting at 7:50 a.m. Thursday.
Lieutenant Colonel Ohm Khur, a new spokesman for the RCSS, said the clashes continued until 5 p.m. on Thursday, and alleged that the military used artillery.
He added that the military deployed an additional four battalions with some 500 troops to the area on Friday, while a Tatmadaw battalion based in Mong Kai continued shelling their camp on Friday.
The area is located between the Northeastern Command and Central Eastern Command, the military spokesman said.
Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said, “It is not true that the Tatmadaw troops attacked them.” He claimed the RCSS troops crossed out of their territory and shot at the government soldiers first.
The military said the area is not listed as RCSS-controlled territory under the bilateral agreement signed between the government and the RCSS in 2012, contradicting the RCSS’s account.
Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun also said the local military affairs officer informed the RCSS liaison officer in Kholan on Feb. 22 that the military would be conducting security operations in the area to deal with illegal drug operations.
The RCSS spokesman denied the Tatmadaw’s accusation and said RCSS troops were not crossing out of their territory. “We conduct movements in the area and we were attacked while our troops were taking a rest in the hills,” he said.
The RCSS’s liaison office in Kholan is negotiating with officers from the Central Eastern Command but no details of the talks were available, said Lt-Col Ohm Khur.
The RCSS statement reads: “The Tatmadaw troops’ intentional attack on RCSS troops casts doubt on the Tatmadaw’s position towards the decisions of the JICM [Joint Implementing Coordination Meeting] on Jan. 8, while the RCSS is trying to achieve peace together with the government, the Tatmadaw and other ethnic armed organizations.” The group added it would review the decisions it made at the RCSS’s recent annual meeting (which concluded on Feb. 24) to try to participate in the upcoming Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee and the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee meetings in the second week of March.
Since March 2019, the RCSS has played the leading role on the Peace Process Steering Team–a political negotiation body of 10 ethnic armed groups that have signed the NCA–and has been instrumental in getting the formal peace process on track.
In January, RCSS chairman General Yawd Serk met with Myanmar army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw. The meeting was hailed as a positive step toward building mutual trust.
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