Fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) flared once again this week in Kyaukme Township, Shan State, with a shelling from the clashes landing in Tawt Pe village and killing two civilians.
The fighting on Tuesday and Wednesday erupted several miles away from Tawt Pe village and the lethal ordnance that hit the village set fire to 10 homes. Two women were killed and three men were injured as a result of the shelling, according to Tin Maung Thein, who chairs the Zewita social aid organisation in Kyaukme.
“The local villagers told us that they were being trapped in the crossfire and asked us to rescue them,” Tin Maung Thein told DVB on Thursday.
“There are about 100 locals in Tawt Pe village and 150 in neighbouring Kun Kout village. We arranged 12 vehicles in collaboration with other organisations and went to the area around 8 a.m. this morning. When we were two-thirds of the way to reaching the village, we learned that the fighting had not subsided and mines were planted along the way. We all had to turn back.”
Tin Maung Thein added that he wants to urge the two ethnic armed groups in conflict to allow aid organisations to access the area and to delineate a landmine-free route so that the trapped villagers — especially women, children and the elderly — can receive necessary assistance.
The organisations have informed both of the armed groups about their plan to rescue the trapped villagers. Upon approaching the conflict zone, neither of the two armed groups prohibited the organisations from advancing, instead warning that they could not ensure their members’ safety. Before turning back, those in the aid convoy heard gunfire and saw smoke rising from their intended destination.
Locals from Tawt Pe village do not know which of the armed groups was responsible for the shell that fell in their village. A contingent of RCSS troops is reportedly residing in the village and from there engaging in combat against TNLA soldiers outside the bounds of the village.
But TNLA spokesman Ta Aik Kyaw accused RCSS troops of deliberately shelling residences and burning forest in the surrounding area.
DVB was unable to contact the RCSS.
Over the weekend, hundreds of civilians fled fighting between the TNLA and the RCSS in nearby Namtu Township. Clashes between the two groups — the latter a signatory to Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement — have occurred intermittently in Shan State since the signing of that accord in October 2015.