Myanmar ethnic armed groups seized numerous outposts on Saturday as they pressed their offensive against the junta in the north of the country, local media reports said.
Fighting has ramped up across vast swaths of Shan state near the Chinese border this week, forcing more than 23,000 people from their homes, according to the UN.
The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA) say they have captured dozens of outposts and four towns and blocked vital trade routes to China.
Local media reports said TNLA fighters on Saturday seized two outposts controlled by pro-military militia near Lashio, the largest town in northern Shan state and home to the military’s northeastern command. The TNLA also flagged gains about four hours away at Namhkam.
“We seized four outposts in total this morning, two outposts from Lashio while the other two were from Namhkam,” a TNLA member said. The MNDAA said it had seized three military outposts further to the east.
The junta has not commented on Saturday’s clashes but on Thursday a spokesman dismissed as “propaganda” claims that the allied ethnic armed groups had captured several towns in Shan state.
The junta said the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), another ethnic armed group based in neighboring Kachin state, had joined the attacks on its forces, and that it would retaliate. Local media reported the junta had shelled the remote town of Laiza on the Chinese border, home to the KIA’s headquarters. Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing this week vowed the military “will launch counter-attacks” against the groups.
An entire military battalion has surrendered to rebel forces amid an offensive by an alliance of three ethnic armies in northern Myanmar’s Shan state, according to sources with the armed resistance who called the capitulation the first of its kind in the region.
All 41 members of Light Infantry Battalion 143, including a deputy commander and two company commanders, agreed to lay down their arms on Monday following talks with the Northern or “Three Brotherhood” Alliance a day earlier, Yan Naing, information officer of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, or MNDAA, told RFA Burmese on Wednesday.
“It is true that the 41 [troops] surrendered – it happened on [Oct.] 30,” said Yan Naing, whose MNDAA, based in Shan’s Kokang region along the border with China, is one of three members of the ethnic army alliance along with the Arakan Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.
Representatives of the Three Brother Alliance had urged commanders of the Kunlong township-based battalion to give up on Oct. 28, a day after it launched “Operation 1027” – named for the Oct. 27 date of the offensive – and simultaneously struck junta positions in the strategic Shan cities of Kunlong, Hseni, Chin Shwe Haw, Laukkaing, Namhkan, Kutkai, and Lashio, the state’s largest municipality.
The MNDAA’s information department said Monday’s surrender marked the first time that a whole battalion had capitulated during an operation in northern Shan state, adding that the alliance had also confiscated a weapons cache as part of the agreement.
It said 15 pro-junta militia fighters had also surrendered with their weapons on Tuesday.
As part of a deal to entice junta forces to surrender, the MNDAA paid 1.5 million kyats (US$715) to each soldier from the battalion and pro-junta militia fighters that lay down their arms and escorted them to territory under their control, the group said.
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