Resistance, regime forces clash in southern Shan State amid wave of arrests

A coalition of anti-regime forces clashed with junta troops in southern Shan State last week amid efforts by the military to tighten control over the area around Inle Lake.

The fighting began on January 3 near the villages of Hpa Yar Ni and Than Htaung, located west of the lake in Nyaungshwe Township, and continued for three days, sources there said.

According to a woman close to local resistance forces, the anti-junta alliance—consisting of two People’s Defence Force (PDF) battalions under the command of the National Unity Government (NUG) and other groups active in the area—initiated the clashes.

“They didn’t come to attack us. We went to attack them,” she said, adding that at least three resistance fighters died in the fighting.

The number of regime casualties was unavailable at the time of reporting.

Days earlier, on December 31, two members of PDF Battalion 1005 were captured at a junta checkpoint in Heho, a town located west of the state capital Taunggyi, as part of a crackdown on resistance activities in the area.

The regime has not released any information about the two captives, identified as Zaw Zaw and Aik Ron, raising concerns about their safety.

According to the woman who spoke to Myanmar Now, at least 40 people have been arrested in Taunggyi and in villages around Inle Lake since late December.

“Most were ordinary civilians, though some may have had administrative roles in the PDF,” she said.

Other local sources said that the arrests began after the Inle PDF posted photos of its activities on Facebook.

Since last week’s fighting, the military has stepped up its efforts to secure the area, setting up checkpoints around the town of Nyaungshwe to prevent locals from leaving, sources there reported.

The checkpoints are reportedly manned by both junta troops and members of the Pa-O National Organisation, an ethnic armed group allied to the regime.

While most fighting in southern Shan State has taken place in areas bordering Karenni (Kayah) State, there has also been significant resistance activity farther west, particularly in Ywangan Township, some 75km northwest of Taunggyi. 

In April of last year, clashes in Ywangan left at least a dozen junta troops, including a major, dead. In August, two local resistance leaders were arrested and others were shot dead during a series of raids.

Since then, NUG-led PDF battalions active in the area have formed an alliance with ethnic armed groups fighting for federalism in Myanmar.

Among the groups included in the coalition—dubbed the United Southern Shan Federal Union—is the Pa-O National Defence Force, which together with PDF troops mounted a successful attack on junta forces in Hsihseng Township in September 2022.

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