YANGON — The Myanmar Army shot and arrested two members of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) suspected of extorting money from businesses, killing one, in Namkham Township in northeastern Shan State on Monday, according to the commander-in-chief’s office on Tuesday.
The two men—identified as Mai Ai Oo and Ai San Aung—reportedly attacked Myanmar Army soldiers with knives and attempted to escape on a motorbike after the soldiers moved to interrogate them.
Ai San Aung later died of gun wounds at the military clinic of the Tatmadaw’s Namkham battalion, the statement added. It said nothing about the condition of Mai Ai Oo.
General secretary of the TNLA Brig-Gen Tar Bone Kyaw denied its members were extorting money, saying the TNLA only levied appropriate taxes in areas under its control.
“It is likely the two men arrested were connected to our tax collection section; we are still inquiring with lower-level staff to find out exactly who they were,” he told The Irrawaddy.
The army seized 1,022,000 kyats, paperwork listing the names and details of shops, two mobile phones, a dagger, and an unlicensed motorbike in the incident, said the army statement.
Ethnic armed groups based in northern Shan State have increased taxes on businesspeople since December, hoteliers and merchants in nearby Lashio Township told The Irrawaddy.
In May, some hoteliers and company owners in Lashio reported extortion to the police after they received letters demanding tax allegedly sent by the TNLA.
The TNLA is currently facing fierce offensives from the Myanmar Army and is therefore collecting taxes for its “revolutionary funds,” said Brig-Gen Tar Bone Kyaw.
“We don’t levy tax on those who can’t afford it. We systematically levy an appropriate amount of tax depending on businesses and also give receipts to tax payers in line with our rules and regulations,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Last week, police issued a bomb alert to locals in Lashio alleging the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and TNLA were plotting to target public buildings with explosives in the town.
The pamphlets also claimed the two armed groups were targeting Namtu Bridge, Yay Pu inspection gate, government offices, and toll gates in Hsenwi Township.
Both the KIA and TNLA denied the allegations.
The TNLA refused to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government, and are members of the seven-member Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and formed in April to discuss alternatives to the NCA-led peace process with the government.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko