The TNLA said that clashes were still common, despite a unilateral ceasefire declared by the Burma Army late last year.
The Burma Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) have clashed repeatedly since Sunday in northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township, in the latest sign that a unilateral ceasefire first declared by the Burma Army at the end of last year is doing little to end hostilities there.
According to Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw of the TNLA, the two sides started fighting early Sunday afternoon as the Burma Army brought reinforcement troops into the area from Lashio. They exchanged fire three times that day and twice on Monday, he said.
“Their reinforcement troops entered into this area yesterday [August 4]. This has continued until this morning. What I can say is that there will be more clashes in this area in the coming days,” he told NMG on Monday.
The clashes on Monday occurred near the villages of Nam Hyon and Tarmohnye in Kutkai Township. According to local sources, fighting between TNLA forces and troops from the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Division (LID) 99 based in Tarmohnye closed the Kutkai-Tarmohnye road for most of the day.
“They have clashed since early this morning [August 5]. The road was closed around 7am, trapping many cars and people. It reopened around 3 or 4pm. Many people heard the sound of guns shooting and the firing of heavy weapons,” one Kutkai resident told NMG.
Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw confirmed the road closure.
“People could not travel on the road because of the fighting. The Burma Army fired artillery from its Tarmohnye base. There are many villagers around this area,” he said.
According to Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw, the Burma Army and TNLA forces clashed three times near Maw Han village in Kutkai Township on Sunday.
“We had three clashes yesterday. The first occurred around 2:25 pm, and the second started around 3pm and lasted until 5pm. The last one started around 7pm. The clashes took place near (old) Nawng Cho village and Tarmohnye town,” he said.
The TNLA blamed the latest clashes on the Burma Army’s movement of troops into the area and its incursions into TNLA territory.
“The reason is that they entered our controlled area. That’s why the clashes occurred. If we don’t move, there will be more strong clashes in the area,” said Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw, adding that fighting could occur “anywhere and at any time.”
The Burma Army’s True News Information Team did not report the clashes in northern Shan State and was unavailable for comment when contacted by NMG.
At a press conference held in the last week of July, the True News Information Team said that clashes continued to occur in the army’s Northeast Regional Military Command area (Shan State) because ethnic armed organizations in northern Shan State were “breaking the rules.”
It said at the time that the army had clashed with the TNLA 25 times since the unilateral ceasefire went into force in late December of last year. It cited a number of alleged offenses by the armed group, including illegal taxation, forced recruitment, and crossing in territory controlled by the Burma Army.
The ceasefire, which was originally set for a four-month period from December 21, 2018 to April 30, 2019, has since been extended twice—from April 30, 2019 to June 30, 2019, and for another two months from June 30.
According to the TNLA, the group has clashed with the Burma Army more than 60 times during the unilateral ceasefire period, with the greatest number of clashes occurring in June and July.