Fighting rages in Shan state on day four of ethnic offensive

The Three Brotherhood Alliance seized territory in multiple cities in the state’s northern region.
By RFA Burmese
2023.10.30
Fighting rages in Shan state on day four of ethnic offensive Kokang Army forces seized this outpost from Myanmar junta soldiers, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.
The KoKang

Four days after an alliance of three ethnic armies opened an offensive against Myanmar’s military regime, fierce fighting raged on in Shan state on Monday, disrupting communications and transportation in the country’s northeast region, residents said.

On Friday, the Northern Alliance or “Three Brotherhood Alliance” made up of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army simultaneously struck junta positions in the strategic Shan cities of Kunlong, Hseni, Chin Shwe Haw, Laukkaing, Namhkan, Kutkai, and Lashio – the state’s largest municipality.

By Monday, alliance forces had seized major towns throughout northern Shan state as part of “Operation 1027”  – named for the Oct. 27 date of the offensive – displacing at least 6,200 people in Hseni, Kutkai, Kyuakme, Lashio, and Muse townships. Some 5,000 of those who fled are taking shelter in religious compounds and the remainder have been forced to stay in temporary camps in the jungle, according to residents and aid groups.

Around 500 people from Chin Shwe Haw are believed to have fled across the border to China for safety.

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, or MNDAA, now controls several districts of Hseni city, where a mine explosion was heard early on Monday morning, residents told RFA Burmese. 

Pro-junta groups reported that the main bridge to the city from Lashio had been destroyed in the fighting, but details remained unclear amid electricity and communications outages in the region, said a woman from Nar Hsawt village, around 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) outside of Hseni.

“The situation in Hseni is still not good,” said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security risks. “[Junta troops] haven’t left the city yet. I also heard gunshots and the sounds of mine explosions. The electricity has been out for three or four days.”

MNDAA forces in Hseni are in control of some departmental buildings, including the Hseni police station and the general administration department, residents said.

But junta troops are showing strong resistance to the offensive, they said.

Transportation cut off

In Kutkai, fierce battles raged between the military and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, or TNLA, beginning early on Monday near the Nam Hkaing bridge, which connects the city to Muse township.

“They are still fighting and no one can cross to our side,” said a resident of Kutkai, who also declined to be named. “The route has been cut off. All road connections and internet services have been cut off.”

In Lashio township, residents told RFA that the MNDAA had seized a police outpost on the Lashio-Mongyai Road and fought with junta troops until noon on Monday. They said the fire of heavy weapons could be heard and combat helicopters were seen hovering around Lashio city.

A Kokang Army soldier fires a machine gun during fighting with Myanmar junta forces in this undated photo. Credit: The KoKang
A Kokang Army soldier fires a machine gun during fighting with Myanmar junta forces in this undated photo. Credit: The KoKang

Elsewhere, anti-junta People’s Defense Force, or PDF, paramilitaries battled with junta troops in Nawnghkio township’s Kyauk Kan village on Sunday, residents said.

A 50-year-old man was killed and two others were killed in the fighting, they said.

“The army was in the monastery and the PDF came and attacked them,” a resident told RFA. “Civilians were hit and one person died. Two were injured and sent to the hospital. This morning, there is still no traffic as the road is closed.”

Eleven junta troops, including a deputy battalion commander, were killed in the fighting on Sunday, according to the PDF, which said its units in Mandalay region recovered the bodies of eight junta soldiers and a cache of weapons the same day.

RFA could not independently confirm the number of casualties.

No end to offensive in sight

MNDAA spokesperson Yan Naing told RFA on Monday that the Three Brotherhood Alliance now controls Chin Shwe Haw city.

“We aren’t in complete control of Hseni yet, but the operation to eliminate the dictatorship is ongoing,” he said. “Since Operation 1027 started, a total of junta’s 60 outposts have been seized.”  

He said that there have been casualties on both sides during the clashes, but could not provide exact numbers due to the ongoing fighting.

Junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed to local media that some military bases and security outposts came under assault in Chin Shwe Haw, Laukkaing, Hseni and Lashio townships and said “some members of the security forces” were killed, though the exact number of casualties had yet to be determined.

As of the time of publishing, the Three Brotherhood Alliance had gained control of bridges and roads connecting to the cities of Nawnghkio, Lashio, Hseni, Kutkai, Muse, Kunlong, Chin Shwe Haw, Laukkaing and Hopang, according to reports.

Residents said that the military has mainly countered the operation using air and artillery strikes.

Military and political analysts told RFA that the fighting is likely to continue, as the Three Brotherhood Alliance did not include a timeframe in their nnouncement of the operation and currently controls the main roads in the area.

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.

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