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A surge of fierce fighting has been observed between government forces and Kokang troops close to the China-Burma border with the Burmese army suffering heavy losses, according to a Kokang spokesperson.
Tun Myat Lin of the ethnic armed group the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) told DVB that violence has spiked since 8 April in the Tong San area of Shan State, southeast of the regional capital Laogai.
“I think that there were about 700 dead and injured from the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] over the five days from 8 to 12 April. On our side, there were about 60 casualties,” Tun Myat Lin said.
He said that the Burmese army had launched a heavy offensive: “The fighting intensified on 8 April and is still going on. They are using more heavy weaponry. More mortars were fired, supported by armed cars and tanks.
“They are also using more manpower. All of the light infantry divisions (LID) except for LID 22 are in the area. All of the troops came to this narrow area. Also, more operational commands have come. There are about 20 percent of all of the army here in our Kokang area,” he said.
State-owned Global New Light of Myanmar on 14 April reported that the Burmese army had captured strategically important areas, including communication routes, and that the insurgents are on the retreat. It reports that in Monday’s fighting, five Tatmadaw members were killed, while 18 more were injured.
He says that the MNDAA are looking for peace with the government, adding that the group are not officially recognised, and will continue with their defence.
The Ta-Ang National Liberation Army and Arakan Army forces are fighting alongside the MNDAA in the region.
The MNDAA was excluded from the recent peace talks that resulted in agreement on a draft text of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, although it is a member of the ethnic bloc’s Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team and welcomed the news of the agreement.
Since fighting broke out in early February, tens of thousands of residents have been displaced, fleeing over the border to China to southwards to the Burmese city of Lashio. Tensions have heightened between Burma and China over the conflict, with Burma offering a recent apology for the accidental deployment of a bomb over the border on 13 March, which killed five Chinese citizens.
Until the outbreak of hostilities this year, the Kokang Special Region had enjoyed a period of relative peace. The MNDAA, under the leadership of Peng Jiasheng, enjoyed two decades of ceasefire with the government. This calm faltered in 2009 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 tensions with the Burmese military increased, purportedly exacerbated by the MNDAA’s alleged links with the drug trade. Peng Jiasheng was soon ousted in a government-backed coup, and has since lived in exile in China. The Burmese government accuse him of being behind the recent outbreak in fighting.