Heavy fighting between Myanmar’s army and rebels has killed 47 soldiers, state media said Friday, sending a flood of people across the border with China and overshadowing hopes for a national ceasefire as a crucial election looms.
Myanmar has informed Beijing about the clashes, which have raged since February 9, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar, marking a dramatic resurgence of conflict with largely ethnic Chinese rebels in the Kokang region in Shan State.
The flaring of a conflict is an ominous sign for the government as it attempts to forge a comprehensive ceasefire deal with the country’s myriad ethnic armed groups.
Kokang fighters with “heavy weapons including anti-aircraft machine guns” attempted to capture the region’s capital Laukkai, just a few miles from the Chinese border, but were repelled by the army, state media said.
“So far, the fighting has left government forces with 47 dead, 73 wounded and five vehicles destroyed,” said the English language report.
It is unclear what provoked the latest round of violence, which was announced as the nation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of independence hero Aung San — the father of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi — who is lauded for backing political autonomy for ethnic areas.