TNLA Claims Govt Uses Helicopter Gunships in Latest Clashes

By The Irrawaddy 17 December 2015

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) is reporting that its troops and the Burma Army have clashed 13 times over the last five days in northern Shan State, with the ethnic Palaung armed group claiming that the government twice called in aerial firepower.

“The fighting continues every day. It has been for four days already. There was also fighting this morning. They used helicopters to fire on our troops on the 14th and 15th [of December],” Tar Jode Jar, vice chairman of the TNLA, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

This morning’s hostilities in Namhsan Township, Shan State, took place between the TNLA’s Battalion 434 and Burma Army troops from Light Infantry Division 77, according to the TNLA’s information department. No information concerning causalities on either side was yet available, the TNLA posted on its Facebook page.

TNLA sources said the heightened frequency of the clashes, which began on Sunday, was due to increased military operations by the Burma Army in territory claimed by the ethnic rebel group.

Mai Aie Kyaw, a spokesperson for the TNLA, said fighting between the TNLA and the government army this morning last about 30 minutes. The TNLA suffered no casualties in the skirmish, he added.

The TNLA was not among the ethnic armed groups that the government deemed eligible to sign a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement in October. While eight non-state armed groups signed the accord with the government, several others, including major groups such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) and United Wa State Army (UWSA), opted not to join the pact for the time being, with many citing concerns about its inclusivity.

Elsewhere fighting has flared in recent months between the SSA-N and the Burma Army in Shan State, as well as government troops and their KIA counterparts in Kachin State, even as the outgoing government has convened ceasefire signatories to begin laying the groundwork for political dialogue as the peace process’s next step.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported on Wednesday that 700 representatives from the Burma Army, political parties including the National League for Democracy (NLD), lawmakers, government officials and the eight ceasefire signatories, will join the political dialogue.