Villagers Fleeing Conflict Reach Hsipaw, Northern Shan State

By Lawi Weng 12 July 2016

RANGOON — More than three hundred ethnic Palaung (Ta’ang) displaced by conflict in their village between rival non-state armed groups the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) arrived in the town of Hsipaw in northern Shan State over the weekend.

Those displaced had come form Ohn Mu village in rural Hsipaw Township, according to Nyo Nyo Myat, a senior member of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization, which has been assisting them in their basic needs.

“The SSA-S was based inside their village. The TNLA attacked them from outside. All villagers have fled,” said Nyo Nyo Myat, adding that, “They could not bring anything. They just have one set of clothes each.”

A total of 339 people arrived on Sunday in Hsipaw. Some villagers had reached the town on July 7, and stayed in a monastery with insufficient food, according to Nyo Nyo Myat.

The chief minister of Shan State has distributed 10 million kyats (US$8,475) in relief funds, which has allowed for some food distribution.

Since Thursday, fighting has broken out almost every day in northern Shan State between the TNLA and the SSA-S (known also by its political wing, the Restoration Council of Shan State).

The TNLA have said they have been mounting an offensive to oust units of the SSA-S occupying their “territory” in rural areas of Kyaukme, Namtu, Mongton and Hsipaw townships.

TNLA deputy chairman Tar Jode Jar said both sides have suffered casualties in recent days. He mentioned a TNLA attack on an SSA-S base on July 4, where two of his troops were killed, as well as the deaths of nine SSA-S soldiers in an unspecified area of Kyaukme Township.

Fighting between the TNLA and the SSA-S, based largely on competing territorial claims, first broke out in late November and quickly spread across Kyaukme, Namhsan, Mongton and Namhkam townships of northern Shan State.

After a lull, the conflict reached a new level of intensity in February, starting in Namkham Township but spreading further, and has displaced several thousand people from rural areas.

The TNLA has accused the SSA-S of receiving the covert support of the Burma Army in its operations, a claim the SSA-S has repeatedly denied.

The RCSS/SSA-S signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the previous government in October last year, and has since enjoyed closer relations with Burma’s military. The TNLA, however, was excluded from signing the ceasefire accord—and their participation in the Union Peace Conference scheduled for later August remains uncertain, barring unilateral disarmament as previously demanded by Burma’s military.