More than 1,000 flee fighting in northern Shan State between junta and TNLA

As battles continued to break out in northern Shan State, displaced people are finding shelter in villages with the capacity to house them but are still in need of food

Clashes between junta forces and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Shan State’s Muse and Kutkai townships, near the China-Myanmar border, forced 1,200 local residents to flee their homes this week.

Amid tension between the TNLA and the junta following fierce clashes over the past few months, the two sides met and exchanged fire some five miles south of Muse on Sunday. Several battles involving the Ta’ang ethnic armed organisation occurred over the next few days in northern Shan State.

Junta troops assaulted Man Kan, Kutkai Township near Loi Taay Murng Hill on Tuesday, firing small weapons and heavy artillery into the village. A 40-year-old woman living in the village was reportedly injured in the attack. 

“The villagers tried to run away. A woman was hit and wounded on the thigh,” said another woman from Man Kan who asked not to be named for security reasons. “One of the heavy artillery shells they fired didn’t explode.”

More than 700 residents of Man Kan and neighbouring villages in Kutkai Township, as well as over 500 villagers living in and near Sei Lant village, Muse Township, have fled their homes due to the fighting, the woman said. 

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) have found shelter in some villages, but due to a shortage of indoor space to house them, some have had to stay in makeshift tents. They are also in need of food, according to a villager from Ton Hkam, Kutkai Township who was assisting the IDPs.

“They cannot return to their villages due to the ongoing fighting. Even those who initially stayed in those villages have now fled. The safe houses in the host villages are already crowded with people. Food assistance is currently only provided by the village, so it will become a problem if this goes on for more than a few days,” he said. 

The TNLA claimed on Tuesday that, despite having air support, junta forces had incurred losses in an assault on their Loi Taay Murng Hill base camp in Kutkai Township. The TNLA also claimed to have captured weapons and ammunition from the soldiers.

The number of casualties and other details about the fighting between the TNLA and junta forces have yet to be independently verified, and the military council has not issued any public statements about this week’s clashes.

Regime forces have been carrying out military operations in territory controlled by the TNLA while the ethnic armed group, founded in 1992 and based in northern Shan State and adjacent parts of Mandalay Region, has provided military training to volunteers from other parts of Myanmar seeking to join the armed resistance against the regime. 

The TNLA, along with other ethnic armed groups active in northern Shan State, sometimes operates near Muse, a trade hub on the China-Myanmar border and an important source of revenue for the country and the military regime. 

According to data collected by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of September 8 more than 1.6 million people have been displaced by conflict throughout Myanmar since the 2021 military coup. 

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