In another instance of escalating clashes around the country, yesterday morning marked the fourth day of renewed hostilities between the Tatmadaw and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in northern Shan State.
The skirmish has so far been contained to a remote area near Par Hlaing village in Kyaukme township, but has not been close enough to civilian homes to displace anyone, according to an MP and a TNLA spokesperson.
“The fighting started on October 14. I got information today that the fighting is still going on. A helicopter came and bombed the area,” said Tar Pan Hla, a spokesperson for the TNLA.
Sai Tun Aung, a Pyithu Hluttaw MP for Kyaukme township, said that the recent outbreak of fighting has not lead to any IDPs.
“Par Hlaing is a mountainous area, a little far away from the centre of Kyaukme. When I asked the villagers from that area on market day about the fighting, they said two troops exchanged fire, but not in the civilian area. They were also not sure what the cause of the fighting was,” he said.
Clashes between the TNLA and the Tatmadaw have also been reported at outposts in Mongngawt in Kyaukme township and in Khun Kha, Momeik/Mong Mit township over the past four days.
“After the 21st-century Panglong Conference, the Tatmadaw began increasing their offensives into the ethnic areas, including in Kachin, Kayin and Shan states,” said Tar Pan Hla.
The TNLA was one of three groups not in attendance at the conference, as they refused to abide by a precondition to disarm.
In August, in the lead-up to the conference, the Tatmadaw had demanded that the three groups making up the “northern alliance” hand over their weapons to a trusted third party before attending.
The TNLA is not a signatory to the nationwide ceasefire agreement, and was sidelined from the previous government’s peace negotiations.
According to Ta’ang human rights groups, in the wake of the conference northern Shan State has seen a spate of human rights abuses along with the uptick in fighting. Kachin, Karen, Chin, Kayah and Shan youth groups, along with ethnic politicians and local CSOs, have demanded an immediate end to the hostilities.
At the same time as it fights the Tatmadaw around Kyaukme, the TNLA is also involved in a clash with the Restoration Council of Shan State near a gas pipeline connecting Manton and Namtu townships. Earlier this year, the TNLA accused the RCSS of teaming up with the Tatmadaw to wage large-scale offensives with thousands of troops deployed in the Kyaukme and Nawngcho areas of northwest Shan State.
The Ta’ang National Party has tried, so far without success, to broker a peace deal between the RCSS and the TNLA in Shan State.