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Clashes around key Myanmar town enter second week

BANGKOK (AFP) – Fighting raged for an eighth day around a Myanmar regional military headquarters, where an ethnic armed group had briefly captured a battalion command, one of its commanders told AFP yesterday.

Northern Shan state has been rocked by clashes since late last month when an alliance of ethnic armed groups renewed an offensive against the military along a vital trade highway to China.

The clashes have shredded a Beijing-brokered truce that in January halted an offensive by the alliance of the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the TNLA.

Fighting was ongoing around Lashio town, home to the junta’s northeastern command, yesterday, General Tar Bhone Kyaw of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) told AFP.

TNLA fighters had briefly captured the base of a military battalion there but junta air strikes had later forced them to retreat, he said.

He said TNLA fighters were inside parts of Lashio but that it was “not easy” to capture the town in a “short time”.

On Tuesday the junta said 18 civilians in Lashio had been killed and 24 wounded in shelling, rocket and drone attacks by the alliance.

The military has carried out several air strikes around the town of some 150,000 people, according to residents. On Tuesday residents piled into cars weighed down with belongings and navigated potholed and monsoon-soaked dirt roads in a bid to flee the fighting, AFP images showed.

On Monday around 45 people crowded onto a boat to take them across a river swollen by the monsoon rains. The alliance was in control of “most” of the town of Naungcho, around 120 kilometres along the highway from Lashio, a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Myanmar’s borderlands are home to myriad ethnic armed groups who have battled the military since independence from Britain in 1948 for autonomy and control of lucrative resources. Some have given shelter and training to newer ‘People’s Defence Forces’ that have sprung up to battle the military after it ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in 2021.

Fighters from the ‘Mandalay PDF’ were battling junta forces in Madaya township around an hour north of second city Mandalay, a spokesman for the group told AFP yesterday. The military had suffered a “large number” of casualties there, he said, without giving details, adding that the PDF fighters had also “faced some sacrifices”.

Amid the fighting last week top general Soe Win travelled to China to discuss security cooperation along their shared border.

Displaced people from Lashio crossing the Dokhtawaddy river as they flee their homes following clashes between Myanmar’s military and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in Myanmar’s northern Shan State. PHOTO: AFP
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