Myanmar Ta’ang Insurgents Launch ‘Casino Reprisal’ Attack, 19 Dead

Posted on: May 14, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: May 15, 2018, 07:06h.

On Sunday morning, ethnic rebels in Myanmar, formerly Burma, launched an attack on the country’s military in the border town of Muse that left at least 19 people dead and 20 injured. It was described by an insurgent colonel as a “casino reprisal attack.”

Soldiers of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, which claimed responsibility for the attack on the Myanmar casino border town of Muse in the early hours of Sunday morning, An insurgent spokesman said they were attacking a casino owned or protected by the government militia. (Image: Frontier Myanmar)

Reports on the ground are sketchy and sometimes contradictory. According to Myanmar officials around 100 members of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), bearing small arms and mortars, attacked three positions –  two military bases and a bridge – shortly after 5am on Sunday morning in the town, which is close to the border with China.

Other reports suggest a casino, not mentioned by name but allegedly owned or protected by the military, was targeted.

Nan Mwe Phown, a Red Cross member who was at a hospital in Muse, told Reuters that 15 civilians had been killed, including two women, one of whom was pregnant. Soldiers and police officers were also among the dead.

Ta’ang Claims Junta Protecting Casino

The TNLA is composed of fighters from the Ta’ang, or Palaung, ethnic group. It has been fighting for greater autonomy since the early 1960s but has stepped up attacks in recent years as the country’s government faces claims of increasing brutality against stateless ethnic peoples.

The army has been accused of torture, forced labor, rape and extrajudicial killings of the country’s many minority groups.

Around 690,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee their homes in Rakhine State for southern Bangladesh following a crackdown on insurgents that targeted the whole ethnic group. The United Nations believes the crackdown should be classed as genocide.

The TNLA said the attack was a response to recent military assaults on TNLA outposts and for an offensive against the Kachin Independence Army, an ally in Kachin State.

TNLA Colonel Tar Aik Kyaw said it specifically targeted the government militia in the area that controls casinos and conceded that civilians were caught in the crossfire.

“The militia are protecting the casinos,” he told the AP. “Those casinos are the gateway for distributing drugs. Many civilians, they go to the casinos and it causes many social problems, so we launched a major assault.”

Gambling is illegal in Myanmar, although casinos are known to exist unofficially in border areas. Recent reports suggest Chinese nationals have been lured across the border to these nameless casinos with the promise of jobs, only to be held for ransom and tortured.

Myanmar’s Tourism Push

This is a place where Google Street View’s camera vans dare not venture and tourists are advised to adopt the same policy.

Ruled by a military junta for decades, Myanmar now claims to be transitioning towards democracy, but the military has been accused of merely putting on a show, permitting some civil liberties, while retaining power by entrenching itself deeper in government.

Despite sharing a border with China, tourism to Myanmar is low in comparison with its neighbors, largely due to its awful human rights record. However, the government has recently made moves to officially authorize foreigner-only casinos in the country.