Burma Army Launches Airstrike Against RCSS in Northern Shan State

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Tatmadaw attacked the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) with two combat helicopters in Kyaukme Township, northern Shan State, on Wednesday, according to local sources.

It is the most recent escalation since fighting reignited between the two forces in the township on October 2.

“Combat helicopters attacked the Sakhantha area at around 11:00 a.m. Then the combat helicopters attacked the Pon Wow area at around noon,” a local man working with the Nam Khong social volunteer team told NMG, referring to two villages affected. “The helicopters also transported some military equipment [to the Burma Army]. The helicopters also dropped bombs. We heard the sound of bomb explosions at least 16 times. Villagers heard the sound of guns shooting and bombing.”

The Nam Khong volunteer team reported that a villager was injured in the airstrike on Wednesday while working in a corn field.

“I heard that the Burma Army shot, one-sided, near Kywe Kon village. The Burma Army’s combat helicopters attacked the RCSS. I saw two combat helicopters flying,” Nang Pan Ei Phyu, who is working with Tai Youth Network, told NMG.

NMG tried to call spokespeople from both the RCSS and the Tatmadaw for comment on the current situation in Kyaukme, but had received no response at the time of reporting.

RCSS spokesperson Lt-Col Oum Khur told NMG on October 6 that there had been at least 10 clashes with the Burma Army between October 2 and October 5. He attributed this to Burmese troops having entered the RCSS’s territory without reporting it to the armed group’s liaison office in Kyaukme.

“We do not understand why the Burma Army immediately attacked us with such excessive force. Why would they want to launch an offensive operation?” he said earlier this week.

Lt-Col Oum Khur added that if clashes continue between the two forces, he is worried that the fighting might spread into urban areas. Military tension remains high as the Burma Army continues to send troop reinforcements to Kyaukme.

In the past, the Burma Army has attributed clashes with the RCSS in northern Shan State to territory disputes, saying that the RCSS is based in southern Shan State and has expanded northward.

Lt-Col Oum Khur rejected this claim, and pointed out that there is no official demarcation line between the government forces and the RCSS.

“Their accusation is nonsense. It’s completely against the NCA,” the RCSS spokesperson said, referring to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), to which the RCSS is a signatory. “There is no official demarcation line between the Burma Army and the RCSS—it’s not written in the NCA. In the NCA, we agreed to discuss this topic [of demarcation] as a security sector reform issue. It’s written in Chapter 3 of the NCA,” he explained.

The Burma Army has extended its unilateral ceasefire declaration through the end of this month, and it is supposed to apply in northern Shan State. Yet the government forces continue to clash with multiple ethnic armed organizations active in the region.