Weeks of Fighting Between Rival Armed Groups Continues in Northern Shan

By Lawi Weng 15 August 2018

Mon State — Fighting continues to rage between rival ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State in a conflict that has displaced hundreds of local residents since last month.

The Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) joined forces with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) for an offensive against Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) positions in Namtu Township in July. They accuse the RCSS, which is based in the south of the state, of encroaching on their traditional territory.

More than 1,000 ethnic Shan and Palaung have fled their villages since the fighting began.

The Shan National League for Democracy party helped broker talks between the SSPP and RCSS in Taunggyi, the state capital, on Friday and Saturday so that they might hammer out a ceasefire. But neither side has issued a statement on the meeting since. The party could not be reached for comment.

Sao Khun Sai, a political adviser to the RCSS based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, said he heard the meeting went well but did not know the details.

TNLA spokesman Major Tar Aike Kyaw said there have been clashes in Namtu nearly every day since the fighting began last month, about 20 in all thus far.

Tai Freedom, a media outlet of the RCSS, reported fighting on Monday lasting from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Namtu residents said there was fighting today as well. Ko Myo, a member of the No Borders Rescue Group, a non-governmental organization, said he and his colleagues helped evacuate more than 300 people from Panglong Village to escape the day’s fighting.

“They heard fighting outside their village, so they asked us to recuse them. They were afraid to stay in their village,” Ko Myo said.

More than 500 of the people who fled their homes last month have yet to return and continue to shelter at local monasteries, he added.

“The best thing is to negotiate,” Ko Myo said. “Because of the constant fighting, people have many problems.”

The fighting has interrupted school for local children and made it difficult for farmers to harvest their crops.

Local reporters who have visited the area say much of the fighting has taken place in the villages where fighters are staying.

“When the Shan saw the Palaung in a community, they fired artillery into the community where the people stay or they fought each other in the community,” said a reporter, who asked to remain anonymous.

The RCSS claims it has the right to operate wherever there are ethnic Shan. The SSPP and TNLA say it belongs in the south of Shan State only. The TNLA claims the RCSS also uses its membership in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the central government as justification for stationing fighters in the north.