Troops reportedly told the Shan army to withdraw to a ‘recognized area’—but Shan soldiers say there is no such agreed-upon territory.
Government forces have been sent to reinforce the troops already searching the area for Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) soldiers in Kehsi and Mong Kurng townships in central Shan state, according to locals.
Since early July, at least 10 battalions under the Tatmadaw’s Light Infantry Division 33 have been sent to the area, with local people reporting that the soldiers have been actively looking for RCSS/SSA soldiers and camps. The reinforcement troops arrived on July 24.
A village headman, who opted to remain anonymous, told SHAN that that he had been questioned by government troops about the Shan army’s whereabouts.
“We are afraid that we will be beaten by [Tatmadaw] soldiers if we cannot answer their questions,” he said.
Lt-Col Sai Oo of the RCSS/SSA told SHAN that a clash had occurred on the morning of July 23 between his troops and the Tatmadaw, lasting about one hour.
“We are defending ourselves. About 100 troops from two to three battalions of the government forces opened fire on us. They attacked us,” he told SHAN. “They told us to withdraw to the ‘recognized area.’ But we don’t have an agreement for any such recognized area. Our troops have been deployed in this area for so long.”
“Our forces are trying to avoid battles as much as we can,” the lieutenant colonel explained. “However, the Tatmadaw has sent more reinforcement troops into the area. If the two forces directly meet up, for sure there will be battles.”
Shan locals are on-edge that fighting will continue. People displaced internally by previous clashes returned to their homes on July 24 and 25, according to Kehsi Township Lower House parliamentarian Sai Jarm Mueng. They had previously been staying in a Buddhist monastery, where he said that they received food support.
“Even though they are so worried, they returned to their homes,” Sai Jarm Mueng said, explaining that they wanted to tend to their farms.
The Tatmadaw and RCSS/SSA engaged in a gunfire fight in Kehsi on July 23. Around 100 people from two villages in Hopong village-tract fled to a nearby monastery.
The RCSS/SSA is a Shan ethnic armed group that signed the country’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the military in 2015.