TNLA, Militia Clash During Anti-Drug Campaign in Northern Shan State

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Pangsay People’s Militia Force (PMF) clashed in northern Shan State’s Namkham Township on Sunday while the TNLA was destroying opium poppy fields, a spokesperson for the Ta’ang forces said.

Maj Mai Aik Kyaw, who is in charge of the TNLA’s information department said that the fighting—in which the Pansay militia was backed by government troops—broke out when Ta’ang forces went to destroy opium crops in the area controlled by the PMF.

“We went to destroy illicit drugs there. While we were destroying the poppy fields, combined forces from the Pansay PMF, MOC [Military Operations Command] 7 and IB [Infantry Battalion] 202 began to attack us with both heavy and small weapons,” Maj Mai Aik Kyaw said, referring to two Burma Army columns. “We then responded to their attacks. That’s why clashes occurred,” he added.

During the fighting, the TNLA spokesperson said that the Burma Army’s IB-123, based in Namphetka, and another unit based at the Mangtat hydropower station in Namkham also attacked the TNLA with heavy weapons.

NMG contacted the Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team for comment on their involvement in the attacks, but had received no response at the time of reporting.

The fighting reportedly lasted from around 6:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., near the villages of Tar Taun, Pansay, Hser Tai, Mang Pan and Per Hsai villages.

The TNLA said that they destroyed around 10 acres of poppies, seized more than 350 kg of opium, 40,000 methamphetamine tablets, 24 rifles, ammunition and military equipment from the Pangsay camps.

“We were able to also arrest eight PMF soldiers in the clashes. We seized the dead body of a PMF soldier. On our side, three TNLA soldiers have been injured,” Maj Mai Aik Kyaw told NMG.

Residents in Namkham town said that the fighting brought temporary instability to the area.

“It’s silent in downtown Namkham. There are poppy plantations on Pansay mountain. They had clashes there. The Palaung army and the PMF shot at each other. Villagers fled the clashes temporarily. After the clashes, the villagers returned to their homes. Now it’s stable there,” Namkham local Zau Yaw told NMG.

The TNLA reported that they destroy poppy fields annually in the area, and have had clashes before when they destroy opium crops in the Pansay area of Namkham Township.

The TNLA has carried out anti-drug campaigns in northern Shan State since 2017. With the exception of the Pansay area, there are now reportedly no poppy plantations on the western side of the Lashio-Muse highway in the region.