Rebels fighting in northern Shan State say they detained eight soldiers from the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, in Kutkai Township, in northern Shan State, on Thursday.
Rebels from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), along with allied rebel groups, have been engaged in intense fighting with the Tatmadaw in the area for over a week.
TNLA Brigadier General Tar Phone Kyaw told The Irrawaddy Friday that the soldiers were pretending to be civilians helping displaced people in the area, though Tatmadaw spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy he had received no report of eight missing or arrested soldiers.
The eight men were arrested on a bridge connecting the villages of Nampakar and Nampaw.
“They did not have guns with them. They traveled to reinforce their troops at the front lines,” Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw said.
He said a TNLA soldier had seen one of the men traveling by car the previous day, so they stopped the men to ask why they’d been traveling so much. Upon questioning, the rebels became more suspicious.
“When our troops arrested and interrogate him, we found that all of them were soldiers,” Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw said.
Major Tar Aike Kyaw of the TNLA said the eight men admitted they were Tatmadaw soldiers. He said he does not yet know which battalion they’re from.
“We are still interrogating them so we’ll get to know all about them,” he said.
According to an Aug. 22 statement issued by the alliance of ethnic armed organizations, who call themselves the Brotherhood Alliance, the Tatmadaw has been increasing its troop numbers in northern Shan State.
The alliance—known as the Brotherhood Alliance and consisting of the TNLA, the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance—have backed off from positions along the Union Highway, which runs from Lashio to the border town of Muse and serves as a major international trade route, after Chinese officials pressured them to stop fighting.
Fighting broke out in jungle areas controlled by the rebel groups on Thursday, where the army deployed tanks, rockets and helicopters, according to a statement from the rebels.
“Some battles we fought jointly, and some were fought by individual groups,” the statement read.
Fighting continued Thursday in nine locations in the townships of Kutkai, Hseni and Namkham, according to the statement, in which five Tatmadaw soldiers were killed and three were wounded. Fighting was most concentrated in Kutkai but moved closer to the Chinese border in Namkham, where new fighting broke out in two separate locations.
The rebels’ report said that, while some fighters were wounded, none have been killed.
As of Friday, around 2,500 people had been displaced in the region due to the fighting. Most are from Lashio and Kutkai.
Asked about the possibility of peace talks with the allied rebel forces, Major-General Soe Naing Oo of the Myanmar military said at a press conference in Naypyitaw on Friday, “They could come if they wanted to have peace talks, we invited them [already]. But, if they want to fight, we are ready to fight too.”
Fighting is also ongoing in Rakhine State, where the military deployed two helicopters to reinforce ground troops fighting the AA, according to local lawmakers.
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