By NANG MYA NADI / DVB
More than 500 villagers have fled their homes in northern Shan State’s Namtu Township in recent days after armed clashes broke out between two of the major ethnic armies in the region – the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
Sai Seng Thein, the administrator of Wein Nang village in Namtu, said hostilities began on 4 May when the SSPP and TNLA forces clashed, causing two civilian injuries due to artillery fire.
“First we heard was that fighting had broken out in Mansaon village and that a 50-year-old resident named Lon Sai was seriously injured when an artillery shell landed on his home. He is now being treated at Lashio Hospital,” said Sai Seng Thein. “On the same day, another skirmish broke out in Mans-lon village, wounding one person who has now been taken to Namtu Hospital.”
The fighting has compelled more than 500 villagers from the areas around Nasang, Lauklon, Napaing and Konmong to abandon their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. Most travelled by foot, carrying what possessions they could.
“Some others arrived by boat across the Namtu River,” said Sai Seng Thein. “We immediately set up emergency shelters for them in the village monastery.”
Relief items such as rice, cooking ingredients, utensils, hygienic products and snacks, were soon delivered by local charity groups, he added.
Lt-Col Sai Su, a spokesperson for the SSPP, which is also known as the Shan State Army-North, claimed the TNLA provoked hostilities when its troops moved in on areas where SSPP forces are based.
“The fighting erupted when a Ta’ang column advanced towards Mansalon, where we have a base,” he said. “The TNLA had previously been involved in clashes against the RCSS [Restoration Council of Shan State, a.k.a. Shan State Army-South) in Namtu and then recently they moved in on positions abandoned by the RCSS units. We believe they wanted to take our positions last week when they advanced, that’s why we opened fire on them.”
The SSPP spokesman said there were casualties on both sides.
The TNLA has yet to comment on the fighting.
The SSPP and TNLA are both allied as members of the United Wa State Army (UWSA)-led Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), which was founded last year by ethnic armed groups who have resisted signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government.