Reports indicate that clashes between the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) escalated following several skirmishes in recent days. The TNLA said its fighters destroyed opium fields belonging to a pro-military resident, sparking an intensification of hostilities in Nankhan Township in the restive Shan State.
Although periodic and localized clashes between ethnic insurgent groups and the Tatmadaw are common, these latest flare ups come in the midst of an ongoing escalation in Shan State’s Kokang region between ethnic Han Chinese militants and the Myanmar military. Several hundred Kokang militants from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched an offensive against the region’s capital, Laukai, on February 9. Fighting has raged ever since, with the Tatmadaw pursuing MNDAA fighters along the mountainous Chinese border. Considering this, it is possible that other insurgent factions, like the DKBA and TNLA, seek to take advantage of the government’s perceived preoccupation with fighting in Kokang and intensify operations against local government interests, whether they be economic or military-related. The military has reportedly shifted forces to the Kokang region to effectively put down the current insurrection, and better secure Laukai. Therefore, additional hostilities between the aforementioned factions should be expected over the coming days, yet it remains to be seen if either side will seek to escalate further.