An attack by an ethnic armed group on police stations, military posts, and civilian buildings early Monday in Laukkai township in the northern part of Myanmar’s restive Shan state left 30 people dead, the government said.
About 30 soldiers from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the formal name of the Kokang army, wore government police uniforms when they ambushed the Yanlone Kyine police station in the capital of the northeastern Chinese-speaking Kokang region near the border with China at around 2 a.m., said a statement issued by the State Counselor’s Office.
Among those killed were five local traffic policemen and five civilians, including an elementary school teacher. The Myanmar military found 20 other bodies that had been burned and 10 weapons, it said.
Agence France-Presse reported that government spokesman Zaw Htay said the 20 casualties were MNDAA fighters.
The government also said the Kokang militants torched a hotel and four nearby cars and had taken four policemen hostage.
“They attacked the Yanlone Kyine police station and launched rocket-propelled grenades at around 4 a.m.,” said Shan state police chief Aung.
Other rebels involved?
Myanmar troops and local police fought back, the statement said, adding that other ethnic armed groups could also have been involved in the ambush.
The MNDAA is a member of the Northern Alliance of four ethnic armed groups fighting Myanmar forces in northern Shan and Kachin states that carried out coordinated attacks on government and military targets in northern Shan state last November.
The Northern Alliance, which has not participated in the government’s peace talks, said the MNDAA initiated the assault because government troops had attacked Kokang territory, according to the government’s statement.
A Northern Alliance spokesman said the coalition’s other members—the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Arakan Army, and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—did not participate in the attack.
“The Northern Alliance groups don’t fight together,” said the group’s spokesman Colonel Ta Aik Kyaw. “We have our own territories, and we control our own territories.”
Fighting between ethnic armies and state soldiers in the same area in early 2015 drove tens of thousands of residents to flee, many of whom crossed the border into China, which accused Myanmar of dropping bombs on its territory.
The latest attack is another setback for the government’s peace talks, the next session of which is scheduled for this month.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also Myanmar’s de facto leader, issued a statement on Monday, saying that she met with government representatives with the Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) under the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups that did not sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the government in October 2015.
She is trying to persuade representatives from ethnic armed groups participate in the next round of the 21st-century Panglong Conference scheduled for this month.
She urged the ethnic armed groups to stop the fighting that had caused many deaths and problems for citizens, and move forward with peace talks.
Military pulls back
Meanwhile, the government military has started withdrawing troops from an area in southeastern Myanmar’s Kayin state controlled by the ethnic armed group New Mon State Party (NMSP), a spokesman for the rebel army said Monday.
The soldiers decided to leave Kya-in Seikkyi township in Kawkareik district area after Myanmar military officials from the Southeastern Command met with NMSP leaders on March 4, said Naing Win Hla, the NMSP’s communications officer.
“We had a tense relationship between the government military and the NMSP,” said Naing Win Hla, the NMSP’s communication officer. “They now say they are withdrawing the troops they had deployed.”
On Feb. 12, Colonel Aung Lwin, minister of security and border affairs in Kayin state, banned weapons and military parades at the 70th Mon State Day organized by the NMSP.
But the NMSP ignored the order and held a military parade at a ceremony in Japun Yedwin village near the border with Thailand.
Three days later, government soldiers seized two border tax collection stations on the Myanmar-Thailand border controlled by the NMSP and searched a communications office in Ye township.
They also deployed more troops in Kya-in Seikkyi township, driving about 2,000 villagers to flee to safety in neighboring Thailand, according to local media reports.
On Feb. 16, NMSP leaders met with officials from the government army’s Southeastern Command in a bid to ease the tension between the NMSP and the national army.
The NMSP signed a cease-fire pact with the government in 1995, but the accord was invalidated when the party refused to transform itself into a border guard unit under government control.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun and Kyaw Lwin Oo. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.