At least 178 Burmese government troops have been killed in fighting against the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) over the past six months, with more than 100 clashes during that period, the TNLA says.
The ethnic Ta’ang (Palaung) army said in a statement on Thursday that only 10 of its own troops had died in the escalating conflict since January. It said the government’s casualties included military commanders, and that more than 100 government troops had been wounded.
Fighting has intensified this year in northern Shan State. In 2012 and 2013, the government army focused on operations against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State. But the KIA conflict has increasingly spilled over to Shan State in recent months, and into territories held by the TNLA.
The Burmese government currently has 60 army bases in TNLA territory, the TNLA said in the statement.
The statement was issued after the TNLA hosted four days of meetings from July 12-15 in northern Shan State, to discuss developments in the armed conflict and the country’s political situation. TNLA leaders said they saw parallels between President Thein Sein’s current administration and that of the former military regime, including ongoing civil war, religious conflicts and land-grabs from civilians.
The TNLA and the KIA are the only two ethnic armed groups that have not signed bilateral ceasefires with the government.
TNLA secretary Mai Phone Kyaw said he believed fighting could escalate in the coming months, despite the government’s attempt to secure a nationwide ceasefire accord with all ethnic armed groups.
“They have reinforced their positions in major military operations. We have to fight them because their troops come to our bases. We have no choice,” the TNLA secretary told The Irrawaddy.
In the statement, the TNLA said political dialogue would be necessary to end the clashes. “We requested this, but the Burmese government has rejected it,” the group said.
Fighting over the past six months has left hundreds of people homeless in Kachin and Shan states.
Burma’s Lower House of Parliament recently urged the government to end military operations in northern Shan State, after Shan residents reported that their paddy farming have been disrupted by the clashes.