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Ethnic armed groups the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) are again locked in conflict in northern Shan State.
Col. Sai La, an SSA-S spokesperson, told DVB that the TNLA engaged them in an attack in Namhkam on Wednesday.
“The TNLA came to attack us in Mongwi [a village-tract in Namhkam], claiming we stole their land. But Namhkam is neither Palaung nor Kachin territory – it is part of Shan State and belongs to the Shan people,” he said.
“Our troops have held a foothold in the area since before the TNLA went back into fighting with the government and we would question why they assumed the area belonged to them.”
A statement released by the TNLA central executive committee on Thursday denounced attempts by the SSA-S to control Ta’ang territories in northern Shan State, where the group “seriously condemned” the opposing side for what they claim carries “political intention” and would further divide ethnic tensions and prolong the civil war.
One day earlier, TNLA spokesperson Mong Aik Kyaw had denied knowledge of the fighting, instead claiming the army’s last clash with the SSA-S was on 30 November.
Now, the TNLA asserts that more than 500 SSA-S troops, who they claim have been aided by Burmese government forces, intruded on their territory – giving them no choice but to respond militarily.
But Col. Sai La maintained the TNLA was to blame for the unnecessary clash.
“What good can come of us ethnic groups fighting each other? We even wanted to stop fighting with the government, let alone other ethnic groups – which is why we signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement so that we might solve problems via peaceful political means, rather than through military action,” he said.
In November, both sides denied responsibility for at least four clashes at the end of the month. Speaking to DVB at the time, Mong Aik Kyaw said: “On 30 November, government military columns arrived in the area and fought alongside the SSA-S. There were causalities as the clashes were heavy – we counted three of our troops injured.”
The SSA-S, together with their political wing the Restoration Council of Shan State, signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government on 15 October. The TNLA was left out of the deal, a snub which prompted larger rebel armies including the Kachin Independence Army to reject the terms of the pre-drafted agreement.