Nearly 50 troops killed as clashes erupt in northern Myanmar
Renewed clashes between Myanmar’s government troops and rebel forces have led to the death of nearly 50 soldiers and wounded dozens in a northern border area.
Myanmar’s state media reported Friday that 47 government troops had been killed in four days of fighting with rebels in the Kokang region of Shan State, a predominantly ethnic Chinese northern border area.
“So far, the fighting has left government forces with 47 dead, 73 wounded and five vehicles destroyed,” the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.
The fresh wave of unrest, which broke out in the area on February 9, could further undermine government efforts to establish peace in the north and reach a nationwide ceasefire.
State-run media said the fighting raged after the rebels shelled the army headquarters in Kongyan area on Thursday. Government forces then retaliated with five airstrikes, according to the reports.
The escalation comes against a backdrop of repeated government attempts to forge a peace deal in the Shan State which borders China’s Yunnan Province.
Myanmar had hoped to sign the long-delayed agreement on Thursday when the country marked its annual Union Day.
The new spate of violence has forced the government to include the concept of federalism in the talks with ethnic Chinese rebels, a move which shows Naypyidaw’s growing fear of collapse in negotiations and a potential breakaway of its northern states.
Myanmar’s government, which replaced junta rule in 2011, has vowed to end the civil wars, which have been flaring on and off since independence, as a key part of its reforms.