RANGOON — Hundreds of ethnic Palaung in Shan State’s Kutkai Township have fled their homes after the Burmese Army fired artillery on their village, with locals reporting that one house was burned to the ground on Sunday amid ongoing clashes between the military and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
“They fought with our troops at around 1 pm,” said Mai Aie Kyaw, a spokesperson for the TNLA. “After this, they shot artillery into Ton Pan village, where there are around 120 houses. All people were afraid and they ran from the village.”
He said there were no TNLA troops stationed in the village, adding that the artillery shelling appeared to be intended to scare Ton Pan’s civilian inhabitants. All those who fled have sought refuge in a village nearby, he added.
Fighting between the Burmese Army and TNLA troops has taken place daily in northern Shan State since the middle of last week, according to local sources. Six soldiers from the government have been killed and five others wounded, according to the TNLA, which claims that its side has suffered no casualties.
The latest fighting, which began on Wednesday, has been concentrated in Kutkai Township, where six clashes took place from June 11-15.
“Six Burmese Army personnel were killed in Kutkai on June 13. Another five people were wounded in fighting on June 11,” Mai Aie Kyaw said.
A week earlier, on June 4, the TNLA claims to have killed two Burmese Army soldiers and a battalion commander in an ambush.
The TNLA has blamed most of the clashes on government troop incursions against the ethnic rebels’ temporary encampments. The TNLA estimates that some 2,000 Burmese Army troops have been deployed in and around Palaung territory.
“They hunt our troops all the time,” Mai Aie Kyaw said of the government forces.
Mai Aie Kyaw said Sunday saw two clashes in Kutkai Township, the first at about 1:30 pm and the second four hours later.
The first exchange lasted an hour and pitted the Burmese Army against an alliance of ethnic rebel groups consisting of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MDAA, an ethnic Kokang group) and the TNLA. The second clash involved only TNLA troops and government forces.
The TNLA and the KIA are the only two major ethnic armed rebel groups in Burma that have not signed ceasefire agreements with the government.
Mai Aie Kyaw said Monday that the TNLA had not yet received a report from the ground on casualties resulting from Sunday’s fighting.