Ta'ang Villagers Flee Myanmar Army Bombardment

By Lawi Weng 16 September 2019

Namhsan Township in northern Shan State has seen more than 1,000 villagers flee their homes amid ongoing fighting between the Myanmar army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Namhsan’s Lway Plang Gar Houre of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO), which helps displaced people, told The Irrawaddy that community leaders had opened a fourth camp to cope with the growing numbers arriving.

“One more house was destroyed by artillery [Sunday]. The other villagers were afraid and they fled,” said Lway Plang Gar Houre.

About 200 Kayar Lan villagers fled yesterday.

The fighting broke out on Sept. 13 after an army assault on the TNLA position at Taung Yoe (Mountain) Pagoda.

The TNLA outpost overlooks Namhsan, reportedly leading the army to fear it could be used to target the town.

The Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) has used ground troops, the air force, helicopters and artillery for four days but the TNLA still retains its base.

“Our strikes are to prevent them [the TNLA] using the mountain as a base,” army spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

But Brigadier General Tar Phone Kyaw from the TNLA said the mountain was only being used temporarily rather than as a base.

“They just do what they want and they also say what they want,” said Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw.

“We used the area just for a while as guerrilla rebels,” the one-star general added. He said the TNLA had used the area for almost 10 years without clashing with the Tatmadaw.

The attack was just an excuse to start more fighting with the TNLA, he added.

Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw invited the army to attack his rebel bases in the jungle rather than shelling innocent villagers in Namhsan Township.

A 61-year-old man was mortally wounded and his wife injured when an artillery shell fell on their house on Sept. 14. The man died because he could not reach the hospital in Namhsan, as the roads were blocked by the fighting.

The Northern Alliance, including the Kachin Independence Army, TNLA, Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) are due to meet officials from the National Reconciliation and Peace Center on (Tuesday) in Kengtung for talks.

A joint statement from the TNLA, AA and MNDAA on Sept. 14 said the army continued to deploy troops in northern Shan State despite announcing a unilateral, short-term ceasefire.

“Attacks by the Myanmar army damage stability during peace negotiations and the situation may get worse. We believe our people should know about this,” said the joint statement.

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