Young soldiers from the Shan State Army in Lecha township, Southern Shan State, on July 16, 2006. Photo: AFP/Hla Hla Htay

Fierce fighting has broken out between rival ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State of Myanmar, The Irrawaddy reported on August 15.

The Shan State Army (SSA) of the Shan State Progress Party, sometimes referred to as the SSA-North, has joined hands with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), an ethnic Palaung group, for an offensive against the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and its Shan State Army, sometimes referred to as the SSA-South.

Casualty numbers were not known, but hundreds of local villagers have been displaced and the fighting has made it difficult for farmers to harvest their crops. The SSA-N and the TNLA say the RCSS has encroached on their respective, traditional areas around Namtu in northern Shan State.

The RCSS signed a ceasefire agreement with Myanmar authorities in October 2015, which enabled the group to send troops from its strongholds along the Myanmar-Thai border in the south to northern Shan State.

The SSA-N and the TNLA have not signed the Myanmar government’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and are allied with the powerful United Wa State Army, another non-signatory group.

The RCSS’s move to northern Shan State is seen by critics as a proxy war against the SSA-N and the TNLA. According to The Irrawaddy, the RCSS claims it has the right to operate wherever there are ethnic Shan.

The SSA-N and the TNLA maintain that the RCSS belongs to the Thai border areas only and the group is using the NCA as justification for stationing some of its troops in northern Shan State.

Efforts to mediate between the SSN-N and the RCSS have not been successful. Despite the Myanmar government’s efforts to establish peace in the country after decades of civil war, fighting is also continuing between the Myanmar army and ethnic armed groups in other parts of Shan State and, especially, in Kachin State in northern Myanmar.

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