By Myanmar Eleven, Reuters
Seven soldiers were killed and twenty injured in an attack by rebels in the Shan State five days ago, according to local reports.
The military accused insurgents of ambushing an army patrol and laying siege to a base near Kunlong, about 30 km (20 miles) from the Chinese border, last Wednesday, the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.
"The remnant Kokang insurgent group launched unprovoked attacks on Tatmadaw camps and columns while the government is implementing the peace process," the newspaper said, using the traditional name for the Myanmar military.
Myawaddy newspaper also reported that the Myanmar troops stationed ten miles away from Kunlong were attacked by the Kokang rebels using heavy weapons. The Kokang insurgents started the attack despite the ongoing peace talks. Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) denied its forces were helping Kokang insurgents in the attack.
“I read about the fighting on December 14 on the social network. But we were not involved. However, our troops including KIA and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) clashed with the military on December 10,” said the spokesperson of TNLA.
Although TNLA and KIA were involved in peace negotiations with the military, the MNDAA is not. However, the MNDAA is involved in the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), the gathering of ethnic armed groups.
The government and ethnic armed groups are in the middle of the negotiation on nationwide ceasefire accord. Hla Maung Shwe from the government-supported Union Peacemaking Working Committee s technical team said that the next meeting is likely to happen between December 20 and 25.
The remaining points to be discussed include security affairs, selection of groups in political talks, plans for the survival of ethnic organisations during political talks after signing a ceasefire and the formation of joint leading committees for Union-level peace talks.
Many armed conflicts have increased since the peace talks broke down between Union Peace Working Committee and NCCT in September.
The latest round of peace talks between guerrilla groups and the semi-civilian government that took over in 2011 after nearly 50 years of military rule ended without agreement on September 27.
Most of the rebel groups have been battling for greater autonomy under a federal system but the military has long stressed the need for a strong, centralised government as set down in a 2008 military-drafted constitution.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he did not know any details about the latest killings but hoped the border remained stable.
"We hope that Myanmar can maintain peace, stability and development and use talks to push for ethnic reconciliation, and especially maintain peace and stability on the China-Myanmar border," Qin said.
The Kokang insurgents, also known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), were formerly part of the Communist Party of Burma, a China-backed guerrilla alliance that battled the Myanmar government until it fell apart in 1989.
The MNDAA signed a ceasefire agreement with the government that year, the first of about a dozen ethnic armed groups to do so. Clashes between government troops and guerrilla groups break out from time to time despite such agreements.
The MNDAA last fought Myanmar's military in 2009, pushing tens of thousands of refugees into southwestern China, angering Beijing.