Love thy Neighbours, Fear thy Neighbours:
Listening to the voices of Shan and Palaung Communities in Shan State
Conflict between the RCSS and the TNLA began as a territorial dispute in May 2015, when the RCSS’s Battalion 701 soldiers returned to their base in Nam Kham, crossing TNLA territory. The TNLA accused the RCSS of being intruders, and ambushed them, while the RCSS claimed that they had informed the TNLA about their movements. During ensuing armed clashes, villagers became victims of extrajudicial killings, arrests, interrogations, forced recruitment, forced taxation, forced labor, and landmines. This led to fear, suspicion, and distrust among villagers, a situation worsened by the fact that the TNLA is often referred to as ‘the Palaung’ while the RCSS is often referred to as ‘the Shan’. As the armed clashes between the RCSS and the TNLA intensified, the tension between the Palaung and the Shan communities became ever more tangible. Rumors and hate speech have been widespread among the communities and have caused distrust and hatred between them. Indeed, members of some communities have started carrying arms in order to defend themselves.