Renewed Fighting Between Govt, TNLA in Shan State

By Saw Yan Naing 4 January 2016

Renewed fighting between Burma’s Armed Forces and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) broke out in northern Shan State on Sunday, with the ethnic armed group claiming government troops called in aerial firepower to back ground forces.

Mai Aie Kyaw, a spokesperson for the TNLA, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that hostilities broke out in two separate locations in northern Shan State on Sunday.

“Fighting broke out twice yesterday. One of our men was injured. We found the dead bodies of four government soldiers. They came to fire at us with helicopters for about 30 minutes in the evening,” Mai Aie Kyaw said.

According to a Facebook post by the TNLA’s Information Department, fighting occurred in Nam Loi Lai village of Muse Township involving TNLA Battalion 571 and Burma Army Light Infantry Division 99, lasting from around 10.40 am until after 5 pm.

Separate fighting occurred in Namkham Township involving the TNLA’s Battalion 478 and the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Division 77, lasting from around noon until 4 pm, according to the Facebook post.

The armed group’s information unit also posted photos of what it claimed were helicopter gunships used by government forces on Sunday. The two helicopters attacked the TNLA’s Brigade 1 base in Muse Township from 4.40 pm, according to the TNLA.

The Palaung armed group similarly claimed that the government used helicopter gunships on Dec. 14-15 during fighting in Namhsan Township.

The early-January fighting came a few days after Burma Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing pledged to work for peace and stability in 2016 in a new year’s message posted to social media.

“The Tatmadaw [Burma Army] is cooperating with the government, focusing mainly on ensuring peace and stability, unity and progress, which are in fact essential requirements for the country,” Min Aung Hlaing wrote.

“I solemnly promise that the Tatmadaw will work together with national people in harmony and in unison for further enhancing peace and stability and the prosperity of the country in 2016.”

The TNLA was not among armed groups that the government deemed eligible to sign a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement in mid-October. Only eight armed groups signed the deal, with political dialogue, set to be attended by 700 delegates, to begin on Jan. 12.