Myanmar government troops engaged in intense fighting on Monday with an ethnic armed group near Namhsan township in troubled northern Shan state, where hostilities with heavy weapons that began two days ago have injured two villagers, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) said.
The TNLA’s battalion 666 clashed twice with the government army’s infantry unit 501 in Namhsan where two residents have been injured by the Myanmar army’s use of heavy weapons, rebel forces said.
There have been no reports of casualties in Namhsan or Momeik township, where fighting also erupted on Oct. 29, it said.
RFA’s Myanmar Service contacted a military official, but he declined to confirm the information and said he did not have permission to discuss the clashes.
Mine Ye Kyaw Thu, chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Namhsan township, said the fighting is serious because residents have been hearing the sound of heavy artillery constantly since Sunday evening.
“We usually have fighting somewhere in the area,” he told RFA. “It’s normal here.”
The new clashes are another blow to the Myanmar government’s efforts to forge peace in the country by convincing ethnic armed groups to sign a peace agreement to end decades of civil wars.
The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and hindered economic development in the resource-rich country.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader, held the Panglong Conference in late August as the first step by the new government, which came to power in April, to proceed with the peace process and eventually create a federal democratic union. A new round of peace talks is scheduled in February.
But government organizers excluded the TNLA and two other ethnic armed groups from participating because they had refused to lay down their arms against the Myanmar army before the summit began.
“If both sides really want peace, not only the government army but also the ethnic armed groups must order their officers and troops not to engage in fighting,” Mine Ye Kyaw Thu said of the new clashes between the TNLA and national army.
“This is the time that both sides must work on peace after seeing how people suffer,” he said. “It is the time to work on having peace and development. We can create a federal union that everybody wants only after we make peace.”
Earlier in October, regional civil society organizations said ongoing conflicts between the government military and armed ethnic groups in Shan and Kachin states have damaged Myanmar’s fragile peace process and imposed hardship on residents there.
They demanded that military and armed ethnic group leaders sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the government that a handful of other such groups have already signed.
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.