Tensions High in Eastern Shan After Myanmar Military Pushes Stricter Security Checks

By Kyaw Kha 6 November 2019

YANGON—Tensions have increased recently between the Myanmar military, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) in eastern Shan State.

Tensions arose in late October after the Myanmar military began stricter inspections of Wa travelers on the road between Mongyang and Mongkhet townships.

“There is a bridge on the Mongyang-Mongkhet road leading to Wa State. The military deployed troops on the bridge and carried out strict checks on Wa people,” a source close to the NDAA told The Irrawaddy. “Then a large Wa Army force arrived and the military troops withdrew from the bridge. The Wa Army took control of the bridge for two days.”

The incident involved a battalion under the military’s Mongkhet Tactical Command and battalions in UWSA Division 468.

A UWSA delegation then went to discuss the issue with the military’s Triangle Region Command and the dispute was solved, the Shan Herald News Agency reported.

UWSA spokesperson Nyi Rang told The Irrawaddy that there was no serious problem between the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, and the UWSA regarding the incident and that the situation has returned to normal.

“When I asked our troops in Mongkhet about that case a few days ago, they said there is no problem now. I still don’t know the details of the incident,” he said.

The UWSA, however, prompted further tension as the group attempted to enter areas controlled by Division 369 of the NDAA in order to retain its control of the bridge, said the source close to the NDAA. The NDAA is also known as the Mongla Army.

“As the Mongla Army refused to move its battalion, the Wa troops can’t enter the area. It is like the two armies are facing head-to-head, so the leaders are holding negotiations,” said the source.

“Though no shots have been fired, there are tensions between those three groups. The Mongla refuse to leave and have deployed troops, and the Tatmadaw will not be happy to withdraw from the area,” he added.

A military spokesperson denied that there were any tensions between the UWSA and the military, though he said he is not sure about the situation between the NDAA and the UWSA.

The UWSA and NDAA both celebrated the 30th anniversary of their truces with the government this year in April and June, respectively.

Large numbers of UWSA troops took control of some NDAA security outposts in September 2016 and so far haven’t withdrawn from the areas. At the time, the move prompted tensions between the UWSA and the Tatmadaw, as the NDAA outposts seized by the UWSA are located close to Tatmadaw-controlled areas. Despite intervention by the Tatmadaw and the government, UWSA troops have refused to withdraw from the NDAA outposts.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko