19 killed in TNLA rebel attacks near China border (May 12, 2018)

On this day in 2018, the TNLA killed 19 people, mostly civilians, in Myanmar Shan State in retribution for army attacks against another ethnic army.

On this day in 2018, the TNLA killed 19 people, mostly civilians, in Myanmar Shan State in retribution for army attacks against another ethnic army.

SHAN STATE, MYANMAR — If you have heard of Myanmar at all in recent years it is because of the crisis in the northwestern state of Rakhine. This part of the country which borders Bangladesh has been the scene of a government-sponsored genocide against the Rohingya, a largely Muslim population.

The reasons for these actions, carried out primarily by the army, are tied to a phenomenon which should by all rights be an oxymoron: Buddhist terrorism (huh?). Religious characters including one who has received the nickname ‘Buddhist bin Laden’ – I do NOT think that is a compliment! – have egged on the military to engage in mass violence, including rapes, village burnings and murders on a massive scale.

The government has justified this action as a ‘reaction’ to terrorism in the region, including acts by groups called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the unrelated Arakan Army (AA). And while there is no question both have engaged in pitched battles with the regular armed forces of Myanmar the retribution meted out against the Rohingya is widely disproportionate.

Most states have very little terrorism to worry about: some, alas, have too much.

Complicating matters is that Yangon is facing multiple threats in multiple regions. Myanmar has 14 ‘provinces’ and 135 different ethnic groups (the government does NOT recognise the Rohingya, terming them ‘immigrants’). Not surprisingly, such a mishmash of different peoples has led to conflict, often between the dominant Bamar (aka Burmese) and the ‘others’.

135 different ethnic subgroups

Sometimes these conflicts have engendered what can only be described as terrorism. On this day in 2018 at least 19 people, including four members of the security forces, were killed by an armed group in the eastern Shan State, near the border with the PRC. The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched three attacks: targets included a military base and a casino. 20 people were wounded in the incidents.

The TNLA claimed that its attack was a response to the Army’s recent offensives against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA is another non-state armed group and the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation, a political group of ethnic Kachins in Northern Myanmar.

We in Canada complain that having French and English as the dominant cultures and languages is tough to manage. It must be really hard to run a country with 135 different ethnic subgroups! Still, there has to be a better way of doing so that does not involve the slaughter of civilians.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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