The alliance of ethnic armed groups fighting the Myanmar military in northern Shan State said it killed 30 government soldiers in separate clashes in northern Shan State on August 20, but the Myanmar Army rejected the report as “impossible”, Mayanmar online news portal Irrawaddy reports.
Most of the clashes—nine—occurred in Kutkai Township on the highway from Lashio to Muse, according to the alliance. Some clashes lasted for three to four hours, but the fighting was over by 8 pm, it said.“Thirty enemy troops were killed, and more than 16 were wounded,” said the group, which calls itself the Brotherhood Alliance, adding that some of its own fighters were wounded but none was killed.
However, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw), told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that while clashes did take place, “It is impossible that 30 soldiers were killed.”
He said two of the clashes occurred in Kyaukme and Naung Cho townships. A temporary base of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) was destroyed in the Kyaukme clash, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said. The TNLA is one of the three members of the alliance along with the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
Another clash occurred in Kutkai, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said. “We seized one gun and found a body at the scene, along with some [other] military equipment. We received a ground report that many [rebel fighters] were killed during their attack on Lashio, and in Kutkai. We have found 10 bodies in total now,” he said.
The alliance launched what it described as a counteroffensive against the Tatmadaw on Aug. 15.
On Wednesday, day six of the offensive, most of the fighting occurred in Kutkai.In its daily battle update, the group also said that on Aug. 19 two Myanmar Army soldiers were killed and one temporary Tatmadaw base was overrun in Nang Gut village.
Major Tar Aike Kyaw of the TNLA said, “We attacked them, and they fled and abandoned their base.” He said his group seized some military equipment including vehicles from the base.
The recent fighting has displaced more than 2,000 people in Lashio, Hseni and Kutkai townships, according to local aid workers assisting internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Aid workers said they were also attempting to reach people trapped between the warring parties, but travel was difficult.
According to the Kutkai-based Metta Shin Social Service Association, 30 people in cars were trapped without food on the highway between Kutkai and Nampakar.
The association said it had asked the alliance to let it send food for the trapped people, who posted messages on Facebook saying they had not eaten since Tuesday.
Another 200 people who had been trapped near Kutkai arrived safely in the town on Wednesday after religious leaders intervened on their behalf, a local civic group said.
“One hundred people arrived last night. They had to walk from their villages as we could not go to rescue them,” said Kham Mat, a member of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization.
She added that a separate group of more than 100 people arrived on Wednesday morning and the women’s organization was preparing places for them to stay.
“If they [the Myanmar Army] see us come to a village on motorbikes, they shoot us. They may think we are supporters of the rebels, so they do not let us take out the trapped villagers,” she said.
Two wounded residents of Kutkai Township’s Mong Yu village had been unable to reach a hospital, and one was in serious condition, she said.