Army operation in Myanmar leaves 16 soldiers dead
In the restive northeastern part of Myanmar, on the border with neighboring China, a major army offensive against Kokang militants has left over a dozen troops dead and more than a hundred others wounded.
“Sixteen soldiers and officers from the Myanmar army gave their lives for the country and another 110 soldiers and officers were wounded,” local media reported on Thursday.
The army’s operation was reportedly aimed at recapturing a strategic hilltop in the region.
Other reports say scores of forces have died on both sides of the conflict since the violent clashes broke out in the remote Shan State in February.
The unrest has also forced tens of thousands of local residents to flee, seeking refuge in neighboring China.
Beijing has criticized the Myanmar government for conducting air strikes on the Chinese territory near the border which killed several civilians there a month ago.
This picture taken on April 6, 2015 shows a young Kokang refugee sitting on his bed at a temporary shelter in southwest China.(© AFP)
Kokang self-administered region
Myanmar has been wracked by unrest since its independence from Britain in 1948 as insurgency flares among minority groups demanding greater autonomy.
Last month Myanmar’s junta-backed president Thein Sein hailed a historic draft peace deal with a host of rebel groups to end decades of civil war.
Kokang militants were not part of the deal. The self-administered Chinese-speaking Kokang region has been in a state of emergency since fighting erupted in the region on February 9 between government forces and the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the main militant group in Kokang.
Another ethnic armed group in Shan State, which is involved in the peace talks with the government, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), has expressed support for the Kokang militants.
Although the Kokang are not directly involved in the peace talks, the ongoing fighting has drawn condemnation from the coalition of rebel groups at the negotiating table, who are yet to formally ratify the draft of the ceasefire deal.