Saturday, February 14, 2015

At Least 47 Burmese Soldiers Die Fighting Kokang Guerrillas


BANGKOK – At least 47 soldiers have died and another 73 wounded in Myanmar while fighting guerrilla troops from the ethnic Kokang minority group in the northeastern part of the country, the government-controlled press said Friday.

The soldiers were ambushed in Laukkai, in the state of Shan near the Chinese border, where recently at least 13 clashes, including airstrikes by the government, have taken place, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

Around 200 Kokang rebels attempted Thursday to capture Laukkai in an assault which coincided with the country’s Union Day celebrations.

But the attack was repelled by the army despite the guerrilla’s use of heavy arms and anti-aircraft weapons, the newspaper added.

Last week, the guerrillas launched an offensive to recover territory gained by government troops, in which, according to the Myanmar Times daily, they have been supported by the Arakan Army as well as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, two other rebel groups active in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

The fighting, the intensity of which led the government to alert the Chinese authorities, is taking place as the Myanmar government attempts to negotiate peace agreements with different armed groups from other ethnic minorities in the country.

The government has held several meetings with guerrillas from the minorities since 2011, yet tensions and clashes continue, mainly with the army, to seek independence for the northern province of Kachin.

Greater autonomy is the main demand of almost all the ethnic minorities in Myanmar which, beside the Kokang and Kuchin peoples, include the Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Mon, Chin and Kayah whose members account for 30 percent of the country’s 53 million inhabitants. 


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