Shan State road shut down after gunshots ring out

Trucks, buses and cars halted in Kutkai and Nantphatkha (Photo-EMG)

Buses and trucks loaded with goods were held up for almost three hours after an unidentified group fired on an army convoy on the road between Kutkai and Nantphatkha in Shan State on Wednesday.

"Fighting occurred at about 930 am and the authorities told us to wait until it was safe," Lashio-Muse bus driver Soe Soe said. "The road reopened after 12 pm."

Lashio is about 200 kilometres northeast of Mandalay in northern Shan State, while Kutkai is about 25 kilometres from Lashio on National Highway 3.

On April 29, The Taaung National Liberation Army (TNLA) took control of Union Road running between Muse and Lashio, collecting what it called a tax from passing drivers, according to witnesses.

The taxes ranged depending on whether it was a commercial vehicle or a passenger car, but were reported to be as high as Ks 500,000. The TNLA admitted taking money from drivers as a way of fundraising for its cause.

The TNLA is the armed wing of the Palaung ethnic group, which has been battling the Myanmar military since 1963. Although the armed group and the government agreed to a ceasefire in April 1991, hostilities have continued between the two sides.

Neither the TNLA nor any other group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's gunfire.