The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has reported a series of skirmishes with the Burmese army in northern Shan State over the weekend.
Spokesperson Ta Aik Kyaw told DVB that the ethnic armed group engaged in five clashes with government forces on 29 and 30 April in several locations across northern Shan State, including in Namtu, Kutkai and Namhkam townships.
“We are seeing renewed fighting with the Tatmadaw [Burmese military] in Namhkam, Kutkai and Namtu townships – it’s been a while since we have been involved in hostilities,” said Ta Aik Kyaw, claiming the government side were the aggressors.
“The Tatmadaw’s 88th Infantry Division launched an offensive in a wooded area where our troops are active,” he added. “Altogether, there were three clashes on Saturday and two on Sunday.”
He said the TNLA did not suffer any casualties, but suggested that six Burmese soldiers may have been killed.
The Burmese military is yet to made an official announcement regarding the alleged clashes.
Ta Aik Kyaw reiterated the TNLA’s stance that it will not take part in the current peace process, dubbed the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC), but that it wishes to engage in a series of parallel, separate peace talks with the government, under the supervision of its allies the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
“The UWSA will lead the parallel round of negotiations, as we agreed at our recent meeting in [UWSA headquarters] Panghsang. We will proceed only when all seven ethnic armed groups can be represented at the peace table,” he said.
The TNLA spokesman did not spell out exactly which seven ethnic militias he was referring to, but DVB concludes that he meant the TNLA, the Kachin Independence Army, Arakan Army and Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army – collectively known as the “Northern Alliance” which has been engaged in continuous battles against government forces in northern Shan State since last year. The other three groups, also not involved in the 21CPC and based in northern Shan State, are assumed to be the UWSA, the Mongla Group and the Shan State Army-North.
The Burmese government, led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, has declared that the next round of the 21CPC will take place on 24 May and that peace negotiators were working to get on board ethnic armed groups that have not signatories to the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.