Myanmar's President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency and placed the military in control of the northern Kokang region Tuesday in measures aimed at dealing with fighting between ethnic rebels and government troops.
A 90-day state of emergency was decreed "to restore the region to its original situation," with the military administration tasked to take “all necessary measures” to restore rule of law, order and peace and tranquility, according to government statements.
“This order was issued because a curfew (issued on Feb. 12) was not enough to maintain security of people and stability of the region,” said one of two statements explaining the martial law decree.
Myanmar's state-run Global New Light of Myanmar showed a photo of Thein Sein meeting wounded soldiers evacuated from Kokang clashes, and vowing that his government "will not lose an inch of Myanmar territory."
Myanmar’s Commander in Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, has appointed Colonel Saw Myint Oo to administer Kokang, the government said.
The fighting erupted Feb. 9 in Laukkai, capital of the special region of Kokang in the northern part of Shan state near Myanmar’s border with China, between army troops and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces. The MNDAA were trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone, which it had controlled until 2009.
The government announced last week that rebels fought the Myanmar army lost five military officers and 42 soldiers in the fighting. Global New Light of Myanmar said 26 rebels were killed.
The Irrawaddy, an independent news website quoted a spokesperson for Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is fighting alongside the MNDAA in Kokang, as saying he had heard that the civilian death toll from recent fighting could be as high as 50.
A provincial news website in the neighboring Chinese province of the Yunnan published a government statement saying that some 30,000 people had crossed the border in both directions since Feb. 9. It was not clear how many displaced people are staying in China.
Thein Sein’s military-dominated government has reached bilateral ceasefire agreements with more than a dozen armed groups since 2011, with the exception of the MNDAA, the TNLA and the Kachin Independence Organization.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Written in English by Paul Eckert.