At least 20 dead as Myanmar gov't troops battle rebels

- Information ministry says 11 rebels and 9 gov't soldiers killed in clashes in Kachin state and northern Shan.

By Joshua Carroll

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) - At least 20 people have died in intense fighting between Myanmar’s army and rebel militias in the country’s north, the government announced Thursday.

Eleven rebels and nine government soldiers were killed in clashes in Kachin state and northern Shan, near the border with China, the Ministry of Information said, though rebel groups have refuted the figures.

The government is fighting the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Shan and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin - two armies affiliated with various ethnic groups that have battled Myanmar’s military for greater autonomy for decades.

Since 2011, fighting has continued to flare along Myanmar’s borderlands despite efforts by the new reformist government to secure a nationwide ceasefire.

While most have signed deals with the government, the KIA and KNLA have yet to do so.

On Wednesday, the TNLA said one of its members and nine government soldiers had been killed in three days of clashes, according to The Irrawaddy website. 

State media refuted the account. The government-run Mirror newspaper said five Myanmar army troops and ten TNLA soldiers had died.

Mai Aike Kyaw, a TNLA communications officer, told The Irrawaddy that the Myanmar Army had used helicopters and jets to attack rebels and civilians.

In Kachin, tensions have escalated since the bodies of two volunteer teachers were found last month, prompting accusations the women had been raped and murdered by the military.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency