The Irrawaddy

RCSS Chief Says TNLA Aggression Against Shan Civilians Hurts Ta’ang Aims

MON STATE — Amid an escalation in fighting between rival ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State, the chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) accused the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) of detaining, harassing and murdering ethnic Shan, and said the strategy would only harm efforts by the Ta’ang to establish their own state.

RCSS Chairman General Yawd Serk told the organization’s media outlet, Tai Freedom, that the TNLA needed to consider which was the best route to establishing a Ta’ang state—attacking ethnic Shan or entering peace negotiations.

“By attacking the Shan, the ethnic Ta’ang are sowing the seeds of their own destruction,” Gen Yawd Serk said.

There is no benefit for the Ta’ang in attacking ethnic Shan, he said, adding that he felt sorry for innocent Ta’ang who are suffering due to the fighting between the TNLA and RCSS.

Responding to Gen Yawd Serk’s comments, Brigadier-General Tar Phone Kyaw of the TNLA said ethnic Ta’ang (Palaung) did not need to arrest or murder Shan people to establish an ethnic state. To achieve the creation of a liberated state, the Ta’ang people will fight for it, he said.

“The RCSS occupies our areas. Therefore, the TNLA has to attack them,” Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw said.

“If Yawd Serk wants to rebuild Shan State, he needs to avoid actions aimed at occupying our areas. His troops should not engage in human rights abuses against the Ta’ang people,” he said.

If they did not, he said, the Shan and Ta’ang communities will only grow more divided and Gen. Yawd Serk’s efforts to rebuild Shan State would fail, Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw said.

The RCSS and TNLA have a history of armed clashes, and accuse each other of human rights violations against their populations. Armed conflict broke out between the RCSS and TNLA after the former signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Myanmar government in 2015.

The RCSS is based in southern Shan State. According to Ta’ang military leaders, the group tried to take control of areas in northern Shan after signing the NCA, leading to clashes with the TNLA.

The RCSS has even tried to seize control of some areas from another Shan organization, the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), in northern Shan, despite being from the same ethnic group.

With increasing numbers of RCSS troops moving into northern Shan, the SSPP joined forces with the TNLA in attacks against the RCSS this year.

The TNLA and SSPP launched a military offensive last month with the aim of kicking the RCSS out of northern Shan. Fighting has escalated in Namtu Township this week, forcing about 1,000 local ethnic Shan and Palaung to flee their villages.

Ethnic Shan and Ta’ang co-existed peacefully in Shan State for decades, but the recent clashes have seen trust between the two communities break down.