02/13/2015, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Shan, clashes between Burmese army and rebel Kokang: 47 dead and over 70 injured

For over a week violence between the military and ethnic militias has raged on the border with China. At least 10 thousand civilians flee the area. Local sources speak of two dead and one wounded among the militiamen. Stalemate in yesterday's talks between the government and rebel groups for viable peace agreement.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) -  The death toll from a week of fighting in Shan State between the Burmese army and the Kokang rebel militia, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), is of 50 soldiers. 

The area, in eastern Myanmar on the border with China has been subject to a heavy air offensive in response to rebel attacks according to reports from the official state newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar. Local witnesses say that it is the heaviest fighting seen in over two years. Meanwhile, the central government in Naypyidaw is trying - so far vain - to reach a peace agreement with ethnic rebels.

About 10 thousand people have fled the conflict zone. The Chinese government reports that some groups of displaced people have crossed the border, seeking refuge in the southern province of Yunnan.

Local sources said that in recent days, there have been 13 different fighting between the two sides. The rebels attacked army positions near Laukai, in the area controlled by the Kokang; at least 47 soldiers were killed, more than 73 wounded and five military vehicles destroyed.

The pro-government newspaper does not speak of casualties among the rebels. However, the Irrawaddy newspaper, based in Thailand, reports that the MNDAA Secretary General claims there are "two dead and one wounded", among the ranks of the militia.

The Kokang are an ethnic group descended from the Han Chinese and their armed wing is what remains of the Communist Party of Burma, dissolved in 1989. For years they have independently ruled a strip of land along the northeastern border between China and Myanmar.

Analysts and local political experts explain that the return of one of the Kokang group leaders, Phone Kya Shin, after five years of exile in China is behind this latest wave of violence. In 2009 he left the country to escape Burmese troops; he decided to return to defend - again - "the Kokang people's rights ".

For decades the government of Myanmar - a nation composed of 135 ethnic groups, often in conflict with the central power - sought to contain the conflict with rebel groups seeking greater autonomy, particularly the Kachin and Shan.

Burmese President Thein Sein has long worked to reach a peace agreement; many groups are ready to sign up, despite sporadic outbreaks of violence. Yesterday, in conjunction with Independence Day, a new round of talks was held in the capital, which ended in stalemate.

 

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