Rescue Worker Killed in Fighting Between Tatmadaw, Northern Alliance

Monday, August 19, 2019

Fighting between the Burma Army members of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups along the national highway in northern Shan State over the weekend turned deadly, with a rescue worker killed.

“We had clashes at six to seven locations on the national highway yesterday,” Maj Mai Aik Kyaw of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) told NMG, adding that he did not have further details or clash reports. “There were multiple clashes between Lashio and Muse,” he said.

A rescue vehicle was shot at on Friday as the team tried to bring an injured person to safety, a member of the team said. One of the volunteer rescue workers—chair of the Lashio Youth Association Tun Myint—was reportedly shot dead and three others injured in the incident.

“A bullet hit the driver and the car turned upside down,” a volunteer working with the Metta San Yay social welfare team told NMG.

The attack on the rescue vehicle occurred while volunteer teams from the Lashio Youth Association, Paw Thaw Let, and Metta San Yay were attempting to rescue a person trapped at a petrol pump near Nam Tun village in Lashio on Saturday.

Those injured were transferred to Lashio public hospital. According to the Metta San yay volunteer team, their members endured only minor injuries.

Representatives of the Tatmadaw told media that it was soldiers from the Northern Alliance who had shot the rescue worker.

“They pointed the finger at us. We could make accusations like them, but we don’t want to. It happened in the middle of clashes. I don’t know which [side’s] bullet hit the rescue men. I cannot confirm it,” the TNLA’s Maj Mai Aik Kyaw told NMG.

Representatives of volunteer rescue teams asked all armed groups to avoid targeting rescue workers and their vehicles.

“We are just working voluntarily to rescue all suffering people. We don’t discriminate. We don’t have bias,” Ko Myo of the Volunteers Without Borders team in Hsipaw said.

Maj Mai Aik Kyaw responded by stating that while TNLA does not target rescue workers, they urge such teams not enter the active conflict zones while shots are being fired, and to wait until the clashes have died down.

“Volunteer rescue teams should not come into the battle zones in the middle of shooting. They should only come there after the battle is over,” the TNLA spokesperson said. “Our forces won’t directly attack them. Sometimes the [Burma] Army sends their reinforcement troops, ammunition and military equipment in rescue vehicles. But we have never attacked cars carrying patients. We know that rescue vehicles are rescuing people.”

The TNLA is concerned that clashes in northern Shan State will only intensify as time goes on.

“If they don’t stop their offensive, we have no option but to defend ourselves,” Maj Mai Aik Kyaw said of the Tatmadaw. “We are carrying out a counter attack to defend ourselves. Whether clashes will stop very much depends on their offensive. If their offensive operations intensify, there will be more clashes.”

On August 15, joint forces belonging to the TNLA, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army attacked the Defense Services Technological Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin, and police and army outposts and tollgates in northern Shan State. The attacks were launched as a counter offensive to Tatmadaw offensives against the ethnic armed groups, in violation of its own unilateral ceasefire.

A Northern Alliance statement released on August 12 called on the military to halt its offensives in the areas under the control of the ethnic armed organizations, but the demand was not adhered to.