RANGOON — The Burma Army lost eight soldiers and 51 were injured in recent days during attempts to conquer strategic hill top positions in Kokang Special Region in northern Shan State from ethnic Kokang rebels, state media reported on Tuesday.
A report by Myawaddy, a military-owned newspaper, stated that government forces on Saturday moved in on Point 1753 hill and surrounding hills located on the Burma-China border from where rebels have launched guerilla attacks on army convoys and cars travelling on the roads below.
“Tatmadaw [army] columns were able to capture strategic hills after launching air and artillery strikes but fierce fighting continued until 8 March in the area,” the paper said. “One officer and seven other ranks sacrificed their lives during the fighting and 51 others were injured.”
Heavy fighting between the army and the Kokang rebels, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), escalated on Feb. 9 after the rebels launched attacks on army bases and police stations in Laukkai Township, the administrative center of the Kokang region. Tens of thousands of civilians from Laukkai fled to China and about 10,000 headed south toward central Burma since fighting erupted.
In subsequent weeks, the army sent in large numbers of troops and launched airstrikes on rebel positions using Russian-made helicopter gunships and fighter jets. The army secured Laukkai late last month and has since been combing the mountainous Kokang region for rebels belonging to the MNDAA and its ally, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
Frequent clashes have since been reported in remote parts of the region.
State media have offered brief stories on the fighting, including the supposed death toll among the army and numbers of rebel bodies seized. According to the reports, the army sustained about as many deaths as the rebels, who are hiding in the mountains of their native region.
State media reported that so far the Burma Army lost a total of 73 men with 189 wounded, while 86 bodies of Kokang rebels were seized.
Kokang rebel sources have only confirmed they lost about two dozen fighters.