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The Burmese government announced on Tuesday a third extension of the State of Emergency and martial law in northern Shan State’s Kokang Self-Administered Region, due to ongoing fighting between the Burmese army and Kokang ethnic rebels Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
A State of Emergency was originally imposed on 17 February, after the outbreak of hostilities, and was extended by President Thein Sein on 18 May. The latest extension is due to expire on 17 November, giving the military commander-in-chief the authority to oversee administrative duties in the area.
A formal proposal to extend the State of Emergency was tabled in the union parliament and approved by lawmakers on Tuesday.
The news comes at a time when ceasefire negotiations between the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups are reaching defining moments. The Karen National Union and All Burma Students Democratic Front announced earlier this week that they were prepared to sign a comprehensive Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, despite the omission of the MNDAA and its allies from the government’s draft proposal.
DVB reported on 13 May, just days before the last extension of the presidential order, that conflict in the Kokang region had intensified. Burma’s military claimed that it had seized three outposts of the Kokang rebels, however Kokang sources denied that any positions or bases were lost.
Ethnic allies, most notably the Ta-ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army continue to support the MNDAA in the conflict, where the ethnic factions have come to rely increasingly on guerrilla tactics.
Prior to the outbreak of fighting on 10 February, the Kokang Special Region, otherwise known as Shan State Special Region 1, had seen relative peace over the past two decades. The MNDAA, under the leadership of Peng Jiasheng, enjoyed two decades of ceasefire with the government. This calm dissolved when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of the Burmese military.
The MNDAA resisted this move, and hostilities from the Burmese army increased, purportedly due to MNDAA links with the drug trade.
Peng Jiasheng was subsequently ousted through government-backed mutiny in Kokang in 2009, and many widely believe he and his faction are behind the most recent conflict.
He was among the ethnic army leaders who met in May at a summit in Shan State’s Panghsang, where the March signing of the draft text for a nationwide ceasefire agreement was discussed.
Read more about the Kokang conflict