RANGOON — Three rebels and 13 Burma Army soldiers were killed while 28 others were wounded during clashes with ethnic Kokang rebels in eastern Burma on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Information.
The ministry said in a statement late Wednesday that the Burma Army was attacked by five small groups of soldiers from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in the former rebel stronghold of Laukkai in northern Shan State.
The statement said three rebels and 13 government troops were killed in the clashes, while 28 others injured have been transferred to an army hospital for emergency medical care.
The statement also said the Burma Army seized narcotics from members of the MNDAA, which the group denied.
“We’re having major fighting, how could we carry out illegal drug trade or grow opium while we are still hiding in the jungle?” said Htun Myat Lin, a spokesman for the MNDAA.
Fighting between the Burma Army and MNDAA has escalated since early February, when clashes flareed forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee, many into neighboring Yunnan, China.
Peace talks between the government and Burma’s myriad ethnic armed groups continued this week, as many of ethnic leaders raised concern about the dangerous situation in northern Shan State.
The MNDAA is a member of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, an ethnic peace negotiation bloc, but the group is not recognized by the government as a potential signatory for a nationwide ceasefire agreement.