130 killed in Myanmar’s battle against ethnic Chinese rebels
More than 130 people have been killed in fighting between Myanmar’s army and rebels near the Chinese border, casting further doubt on the prospects of a nationwide ceasefire ahead of the next general elections.
Myanmar’s chief of military affairs security, Lieutenant General Mya Htun Oo, said Saturday that 61 military and police officers and around 72 rebels have been killed since the recent spate of fighting erupted on February 9, when rebels attacked the army troops in the northeastern Shan State. More than 30,000 people fled the restive area into the neighboring China after the army launched a heavy onslaught on the rebels.
Htun Oo (pictured above), who also serves as the Defense Ministry’s spokesman and was addressing the first press conference since the clashes broke out, described the ongoing fight as “strong” and “serious” with helicopters from Myanmar’s air force and police also involved.
“We will not retreat until we get stability,” he told reporters in the capital, Naypyidaw.
The Burmese military official, however, did not provide any exact figure on the number of civilians that might have been killed in the clashes.
The confrontation, the deadliest since 2009, is centered around Laukkai town in the remote Kokang region. Efforts for evacuation of communities were hampered after an attack on a Red Cross convoy wounded two aid workers. The government blames the rebels for the attack, but rebels deny the accusation.
The ethnic Chinese rebels of the National Democratic Alliance Army, known as the Kokang rebels, have declared their will to continue fighting until achieving autonomy. The insurgency has seriously undermined government’s efforts for reaching a nationwide ceasefire ahead of the general election which is slated for later this year.