Namkham residents say TNLA burned their homes

Soldiers of the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), one of the ethnic rebel groups, in Homain village, Nansam Township, Northern Shan State, Myanmar, 13 January 2014. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

A coalition of nine groups issued a statement condemning the Ta’ang National Liberation Army/Palaung State Liberation Front (TNLA/PSLF) for deliberately setting fire to homes in Hopang Village in northern Shan State on 6 May.

The strongly worded statement claimed that TNLA troops, who have recently clashed with the Restoration Council Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), entered Hopang Village in Namkham Township on 6 May and started fires that led to the levelling of many homes.

The TNLA released a statement in response on 7 May in which they denied responsibility for the fires in Hopang Village. They suggested instead that heavy weapons fired in the vicinity of Hopang Village could have triggered the fires or that they could have been lit by another armed group.

However, a resident of Namkham Township who claims to have witnessed the incident contradicted the TNLA's version of events.

He said: “The fighting between the two groups began on 1 May and lasted until 5 May. The next day, the TNLA troops entered the village and burnt down houses... They also killed villagers' animals and took their property." He also claimed that some of the TNLA soldiers were speaking Kachin.

According to local aid workers, 62 homes were burnt down in Hopang Village causing more than 300 people to flee the village. These displaced villagers are now staying in the Wongwee sub-township of Namkham.

The joint statement was issued by representatives of several groups based in Namkham. The groups that signed it were the Shan Sangha Youth, the Campaign for Unity Preservation (UP), the People of Namkham, the Shan National Democratic Party (SNDP), the Shan Literature and Cultural Association, the Farmer’s Association, Tai Youth, the Shan Women's Organization and the Committee of the Quarters and Villages of Namkham.

The statement called on the TNLA to take responsibility for the fires and to help rebuild the houses of civilians who lost their homes and to compensate them for damages.

It said: "If the demands and compensation are not implemented, the PSLF/TNLA will be widely denounced as a 'Terrorist organization of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.'"

One of the signatories to the statement, Sai LurnMyat, the Chairman of the Campaign for Unity Preservation (UP) told SHAN that the reason they issued the statement is because he and his fellow signatories do not want a repetition of these events.

He said: “We don’t want problems like this to happen to the Shan people in Hopang Village nor to any [other] ethnic group in Burma.”

Fighting between the TNLA and the RCSS/SSA in northern Shan State began late last year.

Though the TNLA stands accused of burning Shan villagers' homes the TNLA has, in its turn, accused Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) forces of entering its territory and violating the rights of Palaung villagers.

In a statement sent out on 2 May the TNLA accused the RCSS/SSA of extorting money from Palaung villagers, confiscating property and farm animals and setting up check points to restrict villagers travel.

The joint statement denouncing the TNLA was sent to a number of government and military officials.

Included on the long list of recipients were Burma's new president, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the Minister of Ethnic Affairs, the Chief Minister of Shan State, the Command Commander of the Northern battalion in Lashio, Division Commander (33) Army Division of Namkham, the Chairman of the District Council of Muse District, the Police Chief of Muse District, the Chairman of the Town Council of Namkham, Police Chief of Namkhm, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), the Sengkaew’s People’s Militias and the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).

Courtesy BNI

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