RANGOON — More than 100 armed members of the Burma Army, police and militia were killed in Shan State’s Mong Ko during conflict between the Burma Army and joint ethnic armed forces between Nov. 20 and December last year.
The Burma Army held a press conference in Naypyidaw on Tuesday where the military chief of staff Gen Mya Tun Oo said that the fatalities included 74 soldiers (including eight officers), 15 police, 13 militiamen and 13 civilians.
“There was close range fighting. Heavy weapons were shot seven times from as close as Lashio between Nov. 20-30,” he said, adding that the attack near the 105th mile border trade zone stopped trade for five days, at a loss of US$90 million.
The joint ethnic armed forces dubbed themselves the Northern Alliance and included the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
The ethnic armed groups launched an offensive for two weeks primarily in Muse, Kutkai and Hsenwi townships, a move which ethnic armed group representatives have said was in response to previous Burma Army offensives against them, leaving them “no place to hide” and forcing them to militarily confront the Tatmadaw in the regional towns.
“The Northern Alliance wanted to seize Mong Ko as they could easily threaten Sino-Myanmar trade if they took it. Plus, they could block the way for auxiliary troops and provide them a safe haven from airstrikes, as it’s close to China,” Gen Mya Tun Oo said.
Fighting broke out in Mong Ko when the joint forces took the town for two weeks. The Burma Army ground and air forces were forced to retreat.
The Burma Army used air strikes during clashes in Mong Ko, damaging some buildings—as was witnessed by Irrawaddy reporters—including one church which the army has since rebuilt.
Two pastors from the church were accused of supporting the KIA during the attack and both were detained by the Burma Army after the joint forces left the town.
The two pastors denied the accusations but remain in detention at a police station in Muse where they wait to be charged by the Burma Army.