Two ethnic Ta’ang civil society organisations have voiced concern over ethnic tensions with Shan communities following a protest in northern Shan State on the weekend.
On Saturday, around 2,000 Shan residents in the town of Kyaukme marched in the streets, chanting slogans that condemned the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA), which is currently fighting the Burmese Army and the major Shan armed group, the Shan State Army-South (SSA-South).
After the protest, the Ta’ang Women’s Organisation and Ta’ang Students and Youth Organisation released a statement calling for unity between the Ta’ang and Shan people.
The statement focused on the historical links that unify both ethnic groups, saying they have been “sharing the same land and water” since ancient times. It also identified the shared experience of ongoing civil conflict and forced displacement due to a lack of self-determination for ethnic nationalities and federalism in Burma.
The document called for unity and friendship to achieve their shared political goal of political recognition and to refrain from actions or making remarks that may cause further divisions among different ethnic groups.
The protest comes as fighting between the TNLA and the SSA-South continues after resuming earlier this month. Hostilities between the two groups flared up soon after the SSA-South signed last year’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, from which the TNLA was excluded.
Shan villagers have accused the TNLA of targeting civilians for allegedly siding with the SSA-South in the ongoing conflict. On 6 May, the village of Hpong in Shan State’s Namkham Township was burned down amid clashes between the TNLA and the SSA-South, in what the village headman suggested was an act of retribution for cooperating with the SSA-South.
Thousands of civilians have been displaced by clashes in northern Shan State in recent months. In Hsipaw Township, dozens were forced to flee amid fighting between the Burmese Army and the Shan State Army-North on 18 May.