Uncharacteristic Clashes Break Out Between Ta’ang and Shan Allied Armed Groups

By Lawi Weng 6 February 2017

RANGOON — Clashes broke out twice between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) in Kyaukme Township on Sunday, according to local sources.

Col Tar Phone Kyaw, a TNLA spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that fighting occurred after negotiations failed to yield an agreement regarding the crossing of territory.

“They [the SSA-N troops] wanted to travel to other areas, and told us that they needed to cross our army base’s area. We requested that they not cross our areas, as the situation is quite complex and fighting often breaks out between the RCSS [Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South] or the Burmese army and the TNLA,” Col Tar Phone Kyaw said.

Officers from the TNLA and SSA-N first held talks at a village where permission to cross had reportedly been requested by the SSA-N.

The first bout of fighting—at noon—reportedly began with a landmine blast, triggered as SSA-N troops ascended a mountain. It re-started hours later, at 4 p.m., once the Shan soldiers continued their route up the mountain.

“Our members thought that [the SSA-N soldiers] had gone back after first clash broke out. But, the second clash broke out when our troops found that they had continued to the top of the mountain,” Col Tar Phone Kyaw said.

The TNLA and SSA-N are known to be allies, and the incident marks some of the first known clashes to break out between the two groups. The SSA-N and TNLA have long claimed territories near one another in the northern Shan State townships of Kyaukme, Namtu, Mantong, and Mong Mit townships. However, the SSA-N left posts in Mantong and Mong Mit after fighting intensified between the TNLA and RCSS/SSA-S.

TNLA leaders have said that the contested areas area not yet stable.

As of Monday, both TNLA and SSA-N leaders agreed to maintain their troop positions and to avoid a repeat of Sunday’s clashes.

“We have already ordered our ground troops not to fight anymore. We are an alliance, and we can negotiate,” said Col Tar Phone Kyaw.

The Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) also reported on the clashes between the two groups. Col Sai Su from the SSA-N told SHAN that TNLA members had attacked his troops while they stayed in a village. He also added that his party would negotiate with TNLA leaders to stop future episodes of fighting.