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300 Namtu villagers flee as RCSS, TNLA resume fighting

Some 324 villagers are now being sheltered at a Buddhist monastery in Man San village near Namtu town. (PHOTO: DVB, 11 March 2018)

More than 300 locals fled their villages and took refuge in a monastery near Namtu town when armed clashes broke out on Saturday between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

“The fighting broke out in Mong Hway village, near Tar Pan creek,” said a local aid worker on Sunday. “Last night and this morning, a total of 324 people from six villages gathered what belongings they could and fled on foot. Those villages are now completely abandoned. We [aid teams] heard gunfire and moved in to rescue those who were trapped in the crossfire. The fighting subsided around noon.”

The 324 villagers are now being sheltered at a Buddhist monastery in Man San village near Namtu town. Local aid organisations have provided them blankets and rice.

The aid worker added: “We never had any problems before with armies fighting in this area. But now, I really don’t what will happen next. Even though the gunfire has ceased, the villagers will have to wait at the monastery until we get the all-clear.”

The TNLA announced that its Battalion 919 had clashed over the weekend with RCSS/SSA in Namtu Township, and that similar skirmishes and battles had taken place near the border of Namhsan and Kyaukme townships.

The RCSS/SSA has not yet made any comment.

Both sides have clashed in southern Shan State several times over the past two years. The RCSS, or SSA-South, is a signatory to the Burmese government’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, while the TNLA is part of a coalition known as the Northern Alliance which launched attacks on Burmese army positions in northern Shan State in November 2016.