RANGOON — An ethnic Palaung rebel group claimed to have ambushed a Burma Army convoy in northern Shan State’s Kunlong Township on Wednesday, killing at least three soldiers and destroying two trucks.
“We fired seven RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades]. Two trucks were destroyed and burned. I only could see three bodies of soldiers fell out of the trucks. We do not know the exact number of deaths and injured,” said Mai Aie Kyaw, a spokesperson for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
He said a convoy of around 40 army trucks were travelling through Kunlong Township, located about 100 km northeast of Lashio, in order to bring reinforcements and supplies to Burma Army units in areas under control of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
“We got a tip that their trucks were heading there. Our troops were waiting to shoot them,” Mai Aie Kyaw said, adding that each truck carried around 20 soldiers.
The TNLA and the KIA are the only two major ethnic armed groups in the country that do not currently have bilateral ceasefire deals with the Burmese government.
Fighting has escalated in eastern Kachin state and northern Shan State in recent months after the Burma Army increased operations against rebel forces. Deadly clashes have regularly been reported in the areas and 3,000 civilians, mostly ethnic Kachin, were forced to flee their homes.
The newly displaced people join about 120,000 others who have fled due to the conflict since 2011, when a 17-year-old ceasefire between the KIA and the government broke down.
Khon Jha, a Kachin peace activist based in Rangoon, said reports from the ground indicated that the army might be launching large operations in Kachin and northern Shan states soon, as heavy army convoys were spotted in the region.
“The government never tells the people that they are going to have another offensive in Kachin. It’s time for our civil society to think about how we can stop this,” she said, adding that she feared the new operations would displace more civilians.
The TNLA has said that they believe there are 2,000 Burma Army soldiers in Namkham Township alone.
The KIA has requested a ceasefire meeting with the government and both sides will meet in the Kachin capital Myitkyina on May 13-14. After these talks an alliance of 12 ethnic groups is expected to meet with the government for further nationwide ceasefire talks.