Sustained Fighting as Burma Army ‘Everywhere’ in N. Shan State: TNLA
By Lawi Weng 7 March 2016
RANGOON — The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has reported at least 16 clashes over just the last week between its troops and the Burma Army, with the ethnic rebel group claiming to have killed dozens of the latter’s soldiers in the northern Shan State fighting this month.
Tensions in the area remain high amid a large-scale Burma Army offensive in territory claimed by the TNLA, leading to clashes that began on March 1. In the latest exchange of hostilities, fighting broke out at Kyaukme Township’s Kyauk Phyu and Bar Lane villages on Monday morning.
“Most fighting, in terms of duration, lasted less than one hour. But one fight yesterday nearby in Mong Yu village lasted three-and-a-half hours,” Mai Aike Kyaw, a TNLA spokesman, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
According to the TNLA, about 2,000 Burma Army troops have been deployed to the conflict zone, a territory that spans several townships in northern Shan State including Kyaukme, Kutkai, Namtu, Manton, Namhsan and Mongmit.
“They [Burma Army troops] are everywhere. Our troops try to avoid them as much as we can, but our troops have to attack them sometimes as they come near to our base,” he said.
Dozens of Burma Army soldiers were killed, while some members of the TNLA were also wounded in the recent clashes, according to the TNLA spokesman.
“Among our troops, there were some wounded from the fighting, but no one was killed. Their side suffered high causalities on March 3 and 6. Dozens of them were killed,” he said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians have been displaced in northern Shan State, with populations especially affected in Kyaukme Township, where more than 3,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled recent fighting between the TNLA and another ethnic armed group, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S).
The two sides split last year over a so-called “nationwide” ceasefire agreement that eight non-state armed groups signed in October. The RCSS was a signatory, while several other groups including the TNLA were not.
Fighting between the RCSS and TNLA first flared in late November and has persisted in the months since, prompting the Burma Army to enter the fray, ostensibly to quell the violence and bring stability to the region.
The Burma Army has 10 light infantry divisions, seven of which have been deployed in northern Shan State, according to Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.), an ethnic media outlet.