The Unwanted Development of Armed Conflict to Racial Conflict in Shan State


The whole Shan State was shocked about the mass murder of a Ta’ang (Palaung) family including a seven months old child.

Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022
Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022

As the fire of the ethnic armed groups conflict in Shan State grows, the civilians are worried that the mass murder of the Mong Kung Ta’ang National Party (TNP) chairperson, Mai Noom Han and his family could trigger racial conflict among the Shan and Ta’ang ethnics. The two ethnics have been living in harmony in the mountainous areas for many years – like brothers and sisters. 

The conflict between the ethnic armed groups started around 2015-2016 in Northern Shan State, and many civilians were killed without knowing the culprits until today.

Even though the ethnic armed conflicts occurred only in Northern Shan State, it has now spread to Southern Shan State starting in 2021.

The killing of the Mong Kung township’s TNP chairperson, Mai Noom Han, his wife, and their 7 months old daughter in Mong Kung was a shocking incident for the people of Shan State and Myanmar. 

Mai Noom Han and his family went missing on 10 January 2022 morning when they returned from Mat Chee Nok village to Tong Lao and Pang Lo village in Mong Kung township.

After missing for two months, on 9 March 2022 the dead bodies of Mai Noom Han and his family were found in a cave near Pan Pwe sub-village, Tong Lao village, Mong Kung township.

According to Ta’ang CSOs, the 39 years old Mai Noom Han was found with his hands and neck tied together in a upside down position, and his wife, the 26 years old Lway Aye Kha was found in a supine position with her seven months old daughter on her back.

Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022 1
Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022 1

The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS/SSA) is controlling the region where the incident took place, and it has been accused that RCSS/SSA could be the culprit, and they should be taking responsibility according to the voices of Ta’ang CSOs.

On 23 March 2022, RCSS/SSA released a statement mentioning the one-sided accusation is not acceptable, and that the incident was intentionally targeted to damage the organization and its political image.

Shan and Ta’ang youth are concerned that the incident would cause the racial conflict between the two ethnicities.

“Shan and Ta’ang in Mong Kung have been living in harmony for so many years. There is no discrimination – we are all equal both Shan and Ta’ang. As a Mong Kung resident, I am saddened by the incident that took place here. It is not about Shan or Ta’ang – whoever it is, it is very sad to see such an incident,” a Mong Kung resident, Sai Merng (Not real name) sadly told SHAN.

It is important that justice is served here. Whoever did this, the culprit should have accountability and responsibility on this case quoted by Ta’ang Women Organization (TWO) general secretary Lway Poe Ka Mel Choe, “We all are the ethnicities who live in Shan State and Myanmar as a nation, and we have been longing for a federated democratic nation. In order to establish a good system, it is required that justice is served and prevailed, and that the culprit must be accountable and responsible for this incident.”

If this case is left unsolved, it will leave a dark spot, and it will affect Shan State unity quoted by a Ta’ang lawyer, Mai Myo Aung, who is providing legal assistance to Ta’ang people, “Even though the case is understandable, it will have an impact on the establishment of future Shan State and the unity of its people. If there is no accountability and responsibility, this incident will leave a dark spot in the civilians’ mind.”

Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022 2
Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022 2

Among the three killed, one was a woman and the other was only a few months old child which strongly indicated that women and children security risk is threatened according to Shan Women Action Network (SWAN).

It was added that all armed groups should obey the laws under Geneva Conventions and the criminals should be punished accordingly.

“No armed group organizations or no army institutions must be allowed to commit such crime to anyone – not because of their ethnicity especially the women and children. If so, the criminal should be punished accordingly – they must not be allowed to run away from their crimes. There must be accountability and responsibility,” stated by Shan Women Action Network (SWAN).

If the armed groups are committing crimes against the laws stated in Geneva Conventions, they can be brought to the International Criminal Court against war crimes.

Myanmar ratified the initial four agreements under Geneva Conventions in 1992 during the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) government.

According to the fourth Geneva Conventions, it is stated that (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022 3
Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022 3

The Shan CSOs in Shan State released a statement condemning the act of crimes whoever or organizations committed such atrocities to civilians without a proper trial. The statement also mentioned that the death of Mai Noom Han and his family should be brought to justice quickly.

A similar case to Mai Noom Han happened in Shan State around May 2016 where six Shan youths went missing in Nam Kham township, along the Nam Phat Kar – Nam Kham road, and the case is unsolved until today.

Moreover, the other cases like an anonymous armed group murdered monks and ward administrators including the assassination of a NLD elected member of parliament U Hitke Zaw in 2020 and many other innocents civilians – these people are still missing until today and the cases are left unsolved.

From the statement jointly released by the Shan CSOs, it is stated that the armed groups in Shan State should not target the plain civilians and commit human rights abuses including killing people. If not, there will be misunderstanding between the groups, and the problem could lead to ethnic racial conflict in Shan State.

A youth from Mong Kung expressed his view that the armed groups should be aware of the situation that could lead to racial conflict, “If some people use this as an advantage to create racial conflict intentionally, the problem will be bigger. I do not want this to happen, and it should not happen. I don’t know if there is any political motive behind the current incident; however, there should not be discrimination regarding this case – be it Shan or Ta’ang,” Sai Merng quoted his opinion.

Ta’ang Women Organization (TWO) stated in a press conference that everyone in Shan State is expecting to live together in harmony and peace without any racial discrimination and conflict.

Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022 4
Funeral of Mai Noom Han and his family 9 March 2022 4

“I do not want the people to live in fear – like fearing one ethnic group or the other. In order to accomplish this, I would like to request everyone’s collaboration. We always said that we would like to live in harmony, unity, and peace, but this would need everyone’s participation and collaboration,” it was quoted during the press conference.

Because of the armed conflicts in Shan State, countless number of plain civilian lives have been in vain.

Shan Women Action Network (SWAN) also urged that the armed groups in Shan State should prioritize a way for a peace dialogue in order to find a solution in which the security, peace, prosperity, and harmony of people living in Shan State is guaranteed.

“If people will continue to use arms and abuse their power, there will be no prosperity and educational development in Shan State. If this issue is not discussed and if there is no one leading to solve this issue, the security of the plain civilians like us are hopeless,” a 60 years old man political activist told SHAN.

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