Residents in northern Shan State’s Namtu Township are currently living in fear of intensified armed conflict between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), as hostilities increased during last week’s peace talks hosted by the Burmese government in Naypyidaw.
Photo by Tai Tiger- Villagers were fleeing their homes to Namtu town on May 11.
Fighting between the two armies has broken out frequently in the Namtu area. A clash on May 13 compelled more than 200 villagers to flee their homes.
On May 25, clashes also broke out between Burmese government forces and the TNLA in that same area, according to a local Namtu resident who spoke to Shan Herald. He said the fighting caused more than 600 villagers to abandon their homes and seek shelter elsewhere.
Reached for comment, Khuensai Jaijen, the managing director of Pyidaungsu Institute for Peace and Dialogue (PI), said that to put a halt to the fighting between TNLA and RCSS/SSA, both sides must engage in talks.
“What is happening now is that both sides misunderstand each other,” he said. “If they sit down and talk, they can resolve their issues. It’s not necessary to hold official meetings. They just need to meet with each other on a regular basis to iron out any problems.”
However, to date both sides have been unable to agree on a meeting place for such talks.
According to Tar Aik Kyaw, the spokesperson of the TNLA, the Ta’ang group has suggested a meeting either in China; in Panghsang, the headquarters of the United Wa State Army (UWSA); or in Mongla, the headquarters of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA).
“It should be possible for us to meet either in China, Panghsang or Mongla,” he said. “However, they [RCSS/SSA] said they wanted the meeting to be in Chiang Mai. For us, that is difficult because we are not an NCA signatory group. We will only meet if the location is secure.”
Reports indicate that the conflict between the TNLA and RCSS/SSA has forced more than 1,400 persons from Namtu to flee their homes since last year.
On September 13, Shan Herald reported that representatives from the Ta’ang National Party (TNP) and Buddhist monks met with the RCSS/SSA in Chiang Mai. However, TNLA spokesman Tar Aik Kyaw explained that the TNP and the monks did not represent the armed group.
“They [TNP and the monks] went to Chiang Mai because they wanted a school opened. The media understood that they were mediators on our behalf,” he said.
Clashes between the RCSS/SS and TNLA first broke out on November 27, 2015, only a month after the RCSS/SSA signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with President Thein Sein’s government. Since then more than 100 clashes have erupted between those two militias.
The TNLA was excluded from the first round of peace talks, unofficially dubbed the 21st Century Panglong Conference, or 21CPC, in 2016. However, the group did attend the second round of political dialogue, represented as a member of the newly formed Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC), which was led by the UWSA.
FPNCC comprises: the UWSA; TNLA; NDAA; Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA); Arakan Army (AA); Kachin Independence Army (KIA); and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP).
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
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