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Two locals, including a toddler, were injured by an artillery shell after clashes broke out between government forces and the Shan State Army North (SSA-N) earlier this week, according to local sources.
A spokesperson for the SSA-N told DVB that army troops from the 291st and 33rd Light Infantry Battalion invaded their territory near Lashio on Monday and Tuesday and they were forced to defend themselves.
“The clashes were inevitable as they came in to clear up our territory and we had no choice but to defend ourselves,” said Sai La, confirming that casualties had been reported.
According to a local source, who spoke to DVB on the condition of anonymity, the causalities included 17-year-old Eh Lu and one-and-a-half-year-old Eh Wei Chin from northern Shan state’s Tangyang township.
They were reportedly sent to Tangyang hospital with injuries sustained from an artillery shell that landed in their village during a clash on Monday afternoon.
According to the rebels, the army has been moving into territory held by their 36th Brigade after they refused to vacate the area to make way for the development of a model village discussed at an earlier round of peace-talks in October.
On 21 February, the Burmese army instructed the SSA-N to withdraw its troops close to Loilan and Loisay area in Tangyang in order to build the village, which would resettle hundreds of displaced families and make way for economic development projects. A number of clashes have been reported since the rebels rejected the government’s demands.
Some media reports suggest the army is trying to secure the development of Chinese-backed mega dam projects near the Salween river. According to the Shan Human Rights Foundation, over 1,000 army troops have been sent to the front lines along the river since February.
The SSA-N say they held a meeting with government representatives in Lashio on 3 April, where they asked them to withdraw its forces from their territories, which they have held since 1989. But so far no response has been heard.
Over 400 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are taking shelter at Aung Mingalar Monastery in Tangyang town, where they are being cared for by the local community. An official at the monastery’s treasury group said there should be enough food for them for the next two weeks.
The SSA-N signed a tentative ceasefire agreement with the government in January 2012, but the two sides have clashed repeatedly over the course of the year. The rebel’s political wing — the Shan State Progressive Party — and the government have yet to reach a political settlement.