16 Myan­mar sol­diers killed near China: state me­dia

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

Six­teen Myan­mar sol­diers died in a ma­jor of­fen­sive to flush rebels from a strate­gic hill-top in the north­east­ern re­gion bor­der­ing China, state me­dia said Thurs­day, as fight­ing with eth­nic in­sur­gents nears its 10th week.

Scores of sol­diers and eth­nic Kokang rebels have died since con­flict erupted in the re­mote re­gion of Shan state on Feb. 9, while tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have fled across the fron­tier into China.

Myan­mar air strikes have since drifted into Chi­nese ter­ri­tory, killing sev­eral civil­ians and prompt­ing a re­buke from Bei­jing which scram­bled its fighter jets.

The con­flict has also over­shad­owed a wider bid to se­cure a na­tion­wide cease-fire with a host of other rebel groups — ex­clud­ing the Kokang — as the coun­try edges to- wards break­through elec­tions af­ter decades of junta rule.

“Six­teen sol­diers and of­fi­cers from the Tat­madaw (Myan­mar army) gave their lives for the coun­try and an­other 110 sol­diers and of­fi­cers were wounded,” a re­port Thurs­day in state-run Burme­se­lan­guage news­pa­per The Mir­ror said.

The troops were tak­ing part in a 10-day op­er­a­tion which ended Wed­nes­day, re­claim­ing a key hill­top and destroying dozens of rebel bunkers, it said.

The news­pa­per added that two dead bod­ies of Kokang rebels were found, along­side small and heavy weapons. Rebel spokes­men could not be im­me­di­ately con­tacted Thurs­day for com­ment.

The Kokang re­gion has been blan­keted by a state of emer­gency im­posed in the days af­ter the fight- ing broke out.

Myan­mar gov­ern­ment-run me­dia ini­tially car­ried de­tailed daily up­dates of the con­flict against the Myan­mar Na­tion­al­i­ties Demo­cratic Al­liance Army (MNDAA), the main in­sur­gent group of the Chi­ne­ses­peak­ing Kokang.

But in­for­ma­tion has dried up in re­cent weeks as the fight­ing con­tin­ues.

There are also no clear fig­ures for the num­ber of civil­ians killed or wounded in the re­mote, rugged area, while hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess has been se­verely ham­pered by sev­eral at­tacks on re­lief con­voys.

Last month Myan­mar’s Pres­i­dent Thein Sein hailed a his­toric draft peace deal with a host of rebel groups to end decades of civil war.

Although the Kokang are not di­rectly in­volved in peace talks, the on­go­ing fight­ing has drawn con­dem­na­tion from the coali­tion of rebel groups at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, who are yet to for­mally rat­ify the draft of the cease-fire deal.

An­other eth­nic armed group, the Shan State-based Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (TNLA) is also sup­port­ing the Kokang rebels, who were driven out of Myan­mar by the army in 2009 be­fore sud­denly re­turn­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

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