Fighting erupts in long-dormant region of Myanmar

YANGON - Fighting has erupted in a long-dormant region of northeast Myanmar, sending civilians fleeing across the border into China and further damaging hopes of a nationwide peace accord between the government and ethnic rebels.

The clashes in Kokang, Shan state, have shattered more than five years of relative peace in the self-administered zone, and come amidst other outbreaks elsewhere in Shan and neighboring Kachin state.

Dozens of rebels and government soldiers have been reported killed and hundreds of civilians have fled their homes due to fighting in the northern states in recent weeks.

Other ethnic rebels are reported to be fighting in Kokang alongside the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army -- a group derived from a China-backed communist militia that disbanded in 1989.

They include the Kachin Independence Army, which has been engaged in fierce skirmishes with the Myanmar Army since Jan. 15.    

Tun Myat Linn, the general secretary of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, said government forces used attack helicopters during a raid on the town of Mawhtike on Monday.

"We came under fire from three helicopters assisting the assault … and some of our troops were injured," he told the Democratic Voice of Burma website Tuesday. At least three government soldiers have been killed in the clashes, he added.

Last week officials from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, another Shan state rebel group, also said government forces had used attack helicopters against them.

The Myanmar Army and the Kokang rebels accuse each other of instigating this week’s fighting. A military-owned newspaper said Tuesday that Kokang rebels had launched attacks on Myanmar Army outposts.

Myanmar’s government has pledged to reach a nationwide cease-fire deal with 17 major rebel groups as part of economic and political reforms that it began in 2011.

But the country’s powerful military, which ruled openly until stepping aside for the reformist government, has been accused of stifling those efforts by launching offensives against rebels.

President Thein Sein’s latest deadline for securing a nationwide deal was set for Jan. 12. But once again he has had to postpone his deadline as negotiators struggle to iron out their differences.

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army said Monday that they would continue to fight until their demands for equality, aid and self-determination were met.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency