NAYPYITAW—The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has blown up a bridge on the Hseinwi-Kunlong-Chin Shwe Haw Road in northern Shan State and attacked a Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) battalion headquarters on the outskirts of Lashio, according to Tatmadaw True News Information Team spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun.
The TNLA blew up the 31st Mile Bridge for the second time this month at around 11 p.m. Tuesday and attacked Battalion No. 291—stationed near the village of Nam Pao, some 25 miles outside of Lashio—at around 6 a.m. the following day.
“The TNLA blew up a bridge near Nar Tee Village on Hseinwi-Kunlong-Chin Shwe Haw Road and carried out the artillery attack on a battalion in Nam Pao from a distance. The artillery shells did not hit the battalion, and no one was injured,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.
Nam Pao villager Ai Tuu told The Irrawaddy that around 200 TNLA troops attacked the battalion at 5 a.m. on Wednesday.
“Most of the artillery shells fell into fields near the village. The fighting took place at the border of Mongyai [in Lashio District],” he said. “A few cars have been stranded as [the military] blocks the road to Mongyai. I didn’t see Tatmadaw troops chasing the rebel troops after they withdrew.”
Local residents have fled from their houses to nearby monasteries, he said.
Between August 15 and August 17, allied armed rebel groups the TNLA, Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army destroyed three bridges in northern Shan State—the Goke Twin Bridge, which links Hsipaw and Nuang Cho townships and forms part of the Mandalay-Lashio-Muse Highway, and the 31st and 41st Mile bridges, which form part of the Hseinwi-Kunlong-Laukkai Road. Both roads are central to major international trade routes.
The Tatmadaw said on Aug. 25 that replacement bailey bridges had been built and transportation restored on both bridges.
Then, said chief of the Shan State Police Force Brig-Gen Zaw Khin Aung , the 31st Mile Bridge was destroyed again, and the road was blocked.
“[Rebel fighters] attacked a military outpost near Lashio-Tanyan. There were no injuries. A clash also took place in the west of Kyaukme,” he said.
“For the time being, the Mandalay-Lashio-Muse Union Highway is under control and security is fully provided, but since there are still clashes with the three armed groups on the Hseinwi-Kunlong-Laukkai Road, we still can’t fully provide security there,” he said.
The Nam Phet Ka-Kutkai-Lashio route is open to vehicles but some who’d previously fled to Kutkai are afraid to return to their villages because of ongoing, sporadic clashes, Kutkai local U Tin Win told The Irrawaddy.
“The clashes are far from our town. Things have started to return to normal, but displaced persons dare not go back to their homes,” he said.
On Aug. 20, the TNLA attacked a bridge security outpost some 100 meters (328 feet) south of Nam Phet Ka at the border of Kutkai.
On Aug. 15, in response to mounting military pressure on the AA in Rakhine State, the three rebel groups launched attacks on several targets in Shan State and Mandalay Region, including the military Defense Services Technological Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin.
TNLA spokesperson Mai Ai Kyaw told The Irrawaddy the rebels opened the new battleground to relieve military pressure in areas under their control.
At a press conference following the attacks, a spokesperson from the President’s Office said the door to peace talks was still open, but the Tatmadaw has warned rebel groups they will suffer consequences if they continue to launch attacks.
Despite these warnings and external pressure from China, the rebels have continued to launch attacks.
China has also tried, so far in vain, to broker talks between the Myanmar government, the Tatmadaw and the rebel groups.
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