Fearing Intensified Fighting, More Than 100 Ta’ang Flee Namhsan

By Lawi Weng 16 January 2017


RANGOON — More than 100 ethnic Ta’ang have fled from their town in northern Shan State’s Namhsan and took refuge in monasteries in Lashio, after fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Burma Army broke out nearby.

Ashin Nyarnika, a Lashio abbot, reported that 90 people arrived at Aung Mingalar Namhsan monastery over the weekend and 20 other displaced people (IDPs) were staying at the nearby Mann Su monastery.

Fifty IDPs first arrived first on Saturday, and others came on Sunday, the abbot explained, with more are expected to arrive in the coming days due to the ongoing instability. The monasteries are supporting the displaced people with the help of local donations, but Ashin Nyarnika said more funds are needed.

De De Poe Jaing, joint secretary of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO), said that some IDPs had also traveled to Mandalay to stay with relatives.

Residents of Namhsan town are reportedly shaken after fighting between the Burma Army and the TNLA led to two deaths and eight injuries after an artillery shell hit a nearby village house on Jan. 12. The TWO issued a statement over the weekend condemning Burma Army abuses including the use of air strikes, the destruction of locals’ property, and the actions that led to the shelling which killed the two individuals, including one eight-year-old boy.

Ethnic Ta’ang—also known as Palaung—have blamed the shelling on the Burma Army, but the Ministry of Defense reported that the shell was fired by the TNLA.

Local sources have said that the deteriorating security in the town has also reportedly led to Namhsan’s high school teachers leaving the area.

Ba Taung, a leader from Ta’ang Literature and Culture Organization, said on Monday, “Students went to schools this morning, but there were no teachers there. The teachers fled from the town as they were afraid of the fighting.”

The Ta’ang Literature and Culture Organization and lawmakers from the Ta’ang National Party (TNP) issued a joint statement on Sunday asking people not to leave Namhsan, and to respond to rumors critically.

According to Mai Win Htoo, a TNP lawmaker, the Burma Army fired artillery shells on Sunday, despite requests from the TNP to cease the strikes.

The Ta’ang Literature and Culture Organization also asked the TNLA not to engage in combat in or near the town. Ba Taung said, “They [the TNLA] told us that they would not fight in the town. But, they are all based in villages. The fighting will break out if the Burmese army comes.”