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The Burmese army has launched assaults on Ta’ang rebel positions in Burma’s northeast in response to parliamentary calls for an intervention to end fighting between rebels that has displaced thousands.
Speaking to a session of parliament on 17 February, Deputy Minister of Defence Gen Myint Lwin told MPs that a freshly arrived Burmese army column had launched an assault on the positions of the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA) in Shan State’s Kyuakme Township.
This week, fighting in the Kyaukme area between the TNLA and former allies the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) rose to its most ferocious in the course of the violent feud that began late last year.
Burma’s Ministry of Defence said that it has now ordered the 6,000 troop-strong SSA-S to stand down in its attacks on TNLA occupied territory in the region. Gen Myint Lwin said that Tatmadaw troops recently deployed to Kyaukme and the Palaung [Ta’ang] Self-Administrated Zone in northern Shan State are tasked with clearing the TNLA out of the area and restoring normality.
The Burmese army column saw four clashes with the TNLA in Tawhsang village-tract in Kyaukme recently and the TNLA withdrew from the area after setting four houses on fire, Gen Myint Lwin told MPs.
In a notice posted by the TNLA to its Facebook page on Wednesday, the group said that Burmese fighter jets had struck its positions in Kutkai Township, also in Shan State.
The urgent proposal for the Tatmadaw to intervene in the fight was put forward in Naypyidaw’s lower house on Tuesday and discussed by 12 MPs including two military representatives.
On Monday Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, told the UN Security Council that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believed that 3,000 civilians had been displaced in northern Shan State last week as a result of worsening fighting between the TNLA and the SSA-S.
“Most of these people are seeking shelter in monasteries and are receiving assistance from local organisations, local authorities, and the Myanmar Red Cross Society,” Haq told the chamber.
According to Burma’s Home Affairs Ministry, there are 2,785 displaced locals in Kyaukme Township alone and they are being provided shelter in 17 displacement camps.
In total 3,624 locals were displaced in the fighting, according to Gen Myint Lwin on Wednesday.
The SSA-S, together with its political wing the Restoration Council of Shan State, signed a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the Burmese government on 15 October 2015. The TNLA was left out of the deal, a snub that prompted larger rebel armies including the Kachin Independence Army to reject the terms of the pre-drafted agreement.
In late November, fighting broke out between the SSA-S and the TNLA in the Namkham and nearby Mantong townships of Shan State, after SSA-S troops had travelled north from the group’s base on the Thai-Burmese border. The groups have since traded blame for the outbreak of the hostilities, with the TNLA claiming that Burmese government troops have fought alongside the SSA-S rebels.