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At least 160 people have died in around three months of clashes between the military and ethnic armed groups in Burma’s northern Shan State, a senior army official said Tuesday, threatening peace talks set for next month.
More than 20,000 people have been displaced since fighting between the army and several armed ethnic groups erupted near the border with China in late November.
Giving the army’s first comprehensive toll from the fighting, the chief of general staff said 74 soldiers, 15 police, 13 government militia fighters and 13 civilians have died in the violence.
“We have 45 dead bodies of enemies and arrested four,” General Mya Tun Oo told reporters in the capital Naypyidaw.
He said hundreds more rebels may have been killed based on pictures of a mass funeral.
The update comes as Burma’s government prepares to hold the second round of peace talks aiming to end the decades-long conflicts rumbling across the country’s borderlands.
Days earlier eight armed ethnic groups signed a statement saying they would never agree to the government-backed ceasefire deal, known as the NCA.