The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has accused Myanmar’s military of using a “toxic gas” during an attack carried out near the captured town of Namkham in northern Shan State late last week.
In a statement released on Monday, the group said that the military dropped two explosive devices containing an unidentified gas during fighting for control of a junta base near the town on Friday.
It also accused the military of using a similar gas during recent clashes near Lashio, the region’s largest town.
“We can confirm that it was a toxic gas, but we don’t know what kind it was,” a TNLA spokesperson told Myanmar Now when contacted for details.
A member of the group who took part in Friday’s fighting said that he fainted and suffered from nausea and shortness of breath after the alleged gas attack.
“The bomb went off with a hiss and released a gas. I fainted after inhaling the gas. I can’t even remember who carried me from the frontline to the hospital. I still feel light-headed when I move too much,” said the TNLA member.
A doctor from the TNLA’s health department confirmed that nine members of the group had similar symptoms as well as others, including low blood oxygen, despite having no physical injuries.
“We can’t confirm if this was actually caused by the gas, but the symptoms are consistent with those of respiratory poison gas attacks,” said the doctor, noting that all of the affected TNLA members were recovering.
Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun denied the accusation, saying the TNLA made the “false claim” because it had been forced to retreat from the base near Namkham after suffering heavy casualties.
The TNLA—a member of an ethnic alliance that has been waging a major anti-junta offensive in northern Shan State since late last month—said it succeeded in overrunning a security outpost at the base near Namkham, but was forced to withdraw after coming under heavy artillery fire and aerial assault.
Namkham, which is located some 200km north of Lashio on Myanmar’s border with China, has been under the control of the TNLA since November 8.
The group said it attacked the base, located a short distance east of the town, early Friday morning. According to the TNLA spokesperson, the base is manned by around 100 junta soldiers and equipped with artillery placements and a helipad.
Although it was forced to withdraw, the TNLA said it managed to seize 13 weapons of various sizes and types from the outpost, and also killed a number of soldiers.
According to a resident of Namkham, two houses in the town were destroyed by the junta’s shelling.
“Most of the shells fell in Aung Chan Thar and Mitta wards. The battle was elsewhere, but this is where they fired the shells, hitting two houses,” he said.
Some locals also claimed that four regime troops were captured during the TNLA raid, but this could not be confirmed.