The Irrawaddy

As Fighting Rages in Northeast Burma, Govt Claims Territorial Gains

A photo in state media purports to show Burma Army troops posing with a haul of arms seized from Kokang rebels this week. (Photo: The Global New Light of Myanmar)

RANGOON — State-run media have reported that seven Kokang rebel soldiers were killed and 12 guns were seized from the ethnic armed group this week when Burma Army soldiers took control of three “important hill posts” in the Kokang Special Region.

Government mouthpiece The Global New Light of Myanmar reported on Wednesday that “some [Burma Army] soldiers were killed and some senior military officers were injured” in the battles for the outposts, without providing specific casualty figures.

Describing one of the hilltop seizures in the Shin Khut Htang area, a Ministry of Information radio broadcast on Tuesday night said: “Our Tatmadaw did not hesitate to pay with their lives, used knives [in hand-to-hand combat], climbed to the mountain post and finally successfully seized the post.”

Shin Khut Htang is about seven miles northeast of the town of Laukkai near the Sino-Burmese border.

The battles for the hill posts broke out on Monday and Tuesday, according to The Global New Light of Myanmar, a timeline corroborated by Htun Myat Lin, spokesman for the Kokang rebels of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

Htun Myat Lin said the rebel group had lost only one mountain outpost, however, and described losing the base as a strategic withdrawal.

“They got a small mountain post from us, but we changed military strategy and let them take it,” he said, adding that the Burma Army used tanks, air power and ground troops in the attack.

“They think they can destroy us. We will defend as much as we can,” he said.

Elsewhere, hostilities between the Burma Army and an ethnic armed alliance also reportedly broke out on Tuesday southwest of Laukkai in the Konegyan area, where a spokesman for a member of the alliance battling government troops said fighting lasted more than eight hours.

“They came to attack our troops from 5 am, then ended at 1 pm. We do not yet know about how many casualties,” said Mai Aike Kyaw of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The TNLA spokesman said that on Sunday clashes in Hsenwi Township, about 30 miles north of Lashio, resulted in several Burma Army casualties when TNLA soldiers ambushed a convoy of military vehicles.

The 60 Burma Army trucks were heading from Hsenwi to Kunlong, he said, and four army trucks were destroyed during the ambush by roadside bombs planted by the TNLA.

“Our troops ambushed them on the highway road from Theinni [Hsenwi] to Kunlong. … No one was killed from our side,” said Mai Aike Kyaw.