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Myanmar Military Continues Attacks Against Ethnic Rebels

FILE - Myanmar army soldiers carrying weapons patrol on a road as part of operations against ethnic rebels, in Kokang, northeastern Shan State.
FILE - Myanmar army soldiers carrying weapons patrol on a road as part of operations against ethnic rebels, in Kokang, northeastern Shan State.

Myanmar's military is continuing its renewed campaign against several ethnic rebel groups, highlighted by aerial assaults in Shan State.

Major Sai La of the Shan State Army (SSA) told VOA Burmese that government troops backed by artillery and airstrikes attacked in Mong Hsu Township. He said that the assaults began in the afternoon.

“Four helicopters and two jet fighters were involved in today’s attack," he said.

No official casualty figures were made available for the latest clashes, but a rebel spokesman claimed at least five bodies of government soldiers were discovered along with some small arms and ammunition on Monday.

Myanmar’s military claimed last week that its troops tried to secure the region following hostile activities by the rebels.

Meanwhile, another ethnic rebel group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), also reported that fighting broke out in recent days in territories under its control in northern Shan State.

Ta Aik Kyaw, the TNLA spokesperson, told VOA Burmese the attack began early Tuesday.

“Fighting between our troops from Battalion 527 and their Division 77 broke out around 8:45 am this morning near Taw Kunt village in Moe Mate Township," he said.

The main Shan ethnic political party, which recently won majority in the state legislature, is planning to address the issue in the next parliament.

Sai Saw Aung, Deputy Chairman of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, told VOA Burmese that the party has discussed the matter with Myanmar leader and he quoted the President Thein Sein as saying that “the government has short and long term plans” to address the issue.

“We urged the president to stop attacks in the areas now that it is harvesting time and people are in deep trouble. We’ll table the issue once we are in the new Parliament," said Saw Aung.

Recent fighting in Shan State has forced thousands of civilians to flee the conflict.

The situation was calmer Tuesday in northern Kachin State following major clashes in recent days. Issuing a statement on Tuesday, Myanmar’s military said that the military campaign began after ethnic Kachin rebels engaged in military activities in the area, including laying landmines, taxation and recruitment.

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the SSA all refused to sign a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement between the government and eight ethnic armed groups reached on October 15. The TNLA was not invited by the government to participate in the ceasefire deal.

Decades of fighting between the government and various ethnic rebel groups have killed tens of thousands of people.

About 40 percent of the population of Myanmar, also known as Burma, are members of ethnic groups, many of them with longstanding demands for control over natural resources in their territories.

Nai Kun Enn reported from Thailand. Sumon Aye contributed from Washington.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.