Situation Grows ‘Critical’ As Fighting Continues in Northern Shan State

Friday, November 15, 2019

Clashes between the Burma Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) are ongoing in the Loi Samsip (30 Hills) area of northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township, as well as in Kyaukme Township.

Cars are resuming travel on the previously blocked section of the Mandalay-Muse highway that runs through the area, but remain on high alert.

Two civilians were injured after a private school bus was shot at on the road on Thursday morning—no children were on the bus at the time, according to Tun Aung, a member of the Garuna social volunteer team in Kutkai town.

“Bullets hit a private school’s bus when the bus was traveling to pick up students. A school teacher and a driver were injured by glass fragments,” Tun Aung told NMG, adding that tension remains high in the Loi Samsip area and fighting has yet to cease.

The road from Kutkai to Hsenwi remains closed due to fighting, with cars only allowed to pass in groups, depending on the security situation at their time of travel. Some 100 cars have been abandoned, locals said.

“The situation in Kutkai is critical. Everybody is afraid. It’s not safe for us,” a Kutkai local told NMG on the condition of anonymity.

In addition, clashes have been ongoing in Kyaukme Township since Monday, some 12 miles from Kyaukme town, where the sound of the fighting can be heard. Some locals have fled their homes.

“There are Palaung [Ta’ang] villages in the area. The Burma Army’s military column has launched an operation in the area,” Tin Maung Thein of the Zewita social volunteer team told NMG, adding that there have been no civilian injuries there to his knowledge. “Many local people are living on alert. Both the Burma Army’s military column and TNLA’s military column could unexpectedly arrive in the villages, so many people are worried.”

NMG called representatives from both the Burma Army and the TNLA to comment on the conflict but received no response at the time of reporting.

The TNLA reported that they clashed with the Burma Army in the Loi Samsip area in Kutkai Township and near Taw Hpe village in Kyaukme Township on Thursday.

The escalation of fighting occurs as the Burmese government and the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups—of which the TNLA is a member—are in negotiations for another round of peace talks.