RCSS-TNLA fighting in Shan State sends hundreds fleeing

RCSS-TNLA fighting in Shan State sends hundreds fleeing

One civilian was killed on Tuesday and hundreds more were displaced in northern Shan State’s Kyaukme district as fighting broke out between the Shan State Army-South, a nationwide ceasefire agreement signatory group, and the non-signatory Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

TNLA and SSA-S troops, the latter being the armed wing of the Restoration Council of Shan State, clashed in the village of Panglon after a contingent from the Shan army arrived in the area early Tuesday morning, according to the nurse Aye San, who works at the village’s medical clinic.

“The TNLA was in the village and the SSA were outside it – we did not expect this kind of serious fighting,” said Aye San.

“I woke up to the sound of gunfire in the morning, followed by artillery shells landing in the village,” she added. “An 18-year old woman, Nang Hmwe Aung, was on her way back from the village when she took a bullet to the head. She died on the spot, we couldn’t help her.”

Aye San said another local woman, identified as Nang Tun, 50, was also shot in the leg and was sent to the hospital in Lashio. The fighting sent many locals fleeing their homes for safety.

“We became too scared to stay in the village so we left. We ran into TNLA troops along the way to Namtu from the village — they had set up roadblocks with bamboo poles and wouldn’t let us through. They said we are free to go if we have a death wish but eventually let us through after about four hours.”

She said around 300 locals from villages in the area have taken shelter in nearby Namtu town while many others remained in their villages, pinned down by the conflict.

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At least five homes in Panglon village’s south as well as parts of the village’s monastery have been destroyed by artillery shelling. The village, located on the main road linking Mansi township in Kachin State to Hsipaw in Shan State, comprising more than 300 households, was recently occupied by the TNLA, an apparent harbinger of this week’s clashes.

Meanwhile, civil society groups in nearby Mansan village said the fighting in and around Panglon village had sent over 800 locals to Mansan, where they have been taken in by the village’s monasteries but are in need of aid.

Intermittent hostilities between the TNLA and the SSA-S first flared in November 2015, weeks after the SSA-S joined seven other non-state armed groups in signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement. The two sides have traded accusations of territorial encroachment in explaining the clashes.

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