Two Civilians Killed by Artillery Strike in Namhsan

By Lawi Weng 13 January 2017

RANGOON — Two people were killed and eight were wounded when an artillery shell landed on a civilian house in Namhsan Township, Shan State on Thursday morning, according to local sources.

One of the dead was an eight-year-old student who lived in the house, and the other was a dance instructor who had traveled from Mandalay to teach. The two deceased victims were killed instantly, according to Namhsan Township lawmaker Mai Win Htoo.

“They were giving dancing lessons at the house” when the shell landed, Mai Win Htoo told The Irrawaddy. “A group of cultural dancers from Mandalay organized it.”

The wounded were taken to Lashio Hospital. The body of the dance instructor was returned to Mandalay on Thursday, the lawmaker said.

Local sources blamed the artillery shelling on the Burma Army. But the Ministry of Defense denied responsibility for the deaths, saying the shell was fired by soldiers from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

“This was a Burma Army artillery shell, type 82-millimeter,” said Col. Tar Phone Kyaw of the TNLA. “We don’t even have 82-millimeter [shells].”

No other military clashes took place on Thursday near Namhsan town, according to both Mai Win Htoo and U Ba Taung, a leader of the Ta’ang Literature and Culture Organization who is based in the town. But a nearby Burma Army base often fired shells close to Namhsan, the two sources said.

“They [the Burma Army] fired the shell. There was no other fighting yesterday,” said U Ba Taung.

The explosion happened around 10:00 a.m.

“If we examine the shell nuts, then we can prove exactly who this artillery shell belonged to,” said Mai Win Htoo.

The TNLA celebrated their annual revolution day on Thursday. During the celebration, some TNLA soldiers were positioned outside of Namhsan town in order to block Burma Army soldiers from departing the town and disrupting the events.

The Burma Army intended to strike these same TNLA soldiers with artillery, the TNLA alleged. Then one shell went astray and killed civilians.

The defense ministry reported that TNLA soldiers fired at the Burma Army outside of Namhsan, causing the civilian deaths.

“Bombs and artillery fell four times in total on this village,” the ministry’s report said. “Two innocents were killed, and five men and three women were wounded.”