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Fighting abates as Kokang Army splits

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burma’s military rulers on Monday said the situation in north-eastern Shan State has normalised, but sources along the Sino-Burma border said sporadic fighting continues between junta troops and Kokang rebels.

The clashes between Kokang rebels and the Burmese Army troops since August 27 has now subsided and the situation has returned to normal with refugees, who have fled to China, beginning to return to their homes, the junta said on Monday in announcements published in its mouthpiece newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar.

But Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Sino-Burma based observer said while heavy fighting had ceased, sporadic battles between the two sides continue as the supreme leader of the Kokang rebels, Peng Jiasheng, also known as Phone Kyar Shin in Burmese, and his followers continue to remain in the jungles in the Kokang area.

He said, a few villagers have begun to return to their homes in the region but the majority of the estimated 30,000 refugees remain in China, particularly in Nansan County.

Fighting between the Kokang rebels and government troops began to abate on Saturday after several rebels surrendered to the Chinese authorities, Aung Kyaw Zaw added.

“But it will take at least a month or two for the situation to return to normal and it is unlikely that Peng and his troops will give-up,” he added.

The Burmese junta’s announcement, carried in the official newspaper on Monday, however, said local authorities have restored peace and stability after flushing out Peng and his troops from Loa Kai town, capital of the Kokang region, with the help of ethnic Kokangs loyal to the government.

The announcement said the clashes, which killed 11 Burmese soldiers and 15 policemen and injured 34 soldiers and 13 policemen, were the result of Peng’s refusal to surrender along with his followers for violating the law and operating an arms and ammunition factory in Loa Kai town.

“The incidents, which broke out in Kokang region are concerned only with the above four persons. Those who are not concerned with them may join Kokang Region Provisional Leading Committee,” the announcement said.

The newspaper said, Peng and his three other followers have been involved in manufacturing and selling  arms and have been exposed by the police, who filed a lawsuit and served a summons on them.

But Peng and his three friends fled Lao Kai and refused to present themselves before the court, becoming fugitives, the announcement added.

But Sein Kyi, Editor of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), said the Burmese Army has made a move to split the Kokang Army also known as Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), by supporting Peng’s Deputy Bai Suoqian, with whom Peng had disagreed over the junta’s proposal of transforming the Kokang forces.

“As soon as Peng and his troops were forced out of Lao Kai, Bai was elected as the new leader for the Kokang Region Provisional Leading Committee that was formed with the help of the Burmese Army,” Sein Kyi said.

Sein Kyi said Bai and a few Kokang troops are willing to accept the Burmese junta’s proposal of transforming the Kokang Army into a Border Guard Force, which will be under the administration of the junta.

“It is clearly evident that the junta is using their division to break them down,” Sein Kyi said.
Another Editor of SHAN, Khynsai, said the split in the Kokang also indicates that the junta is reusing its old tactics of ‘divide and rule’ to create a rift among the rebels.

“Since the Kokang Army is now split, other ceasefire groups can expect the junta to turn on them soon,” Khynsai said.

China on Friday urged the Burmese junta to handle the issue properly and maintain peace and stability along the Sino-Burma border. Besides, China also provided emergency food and shelter to refugees, who had fled across the borders.

“But it seems to me, China does not seem to have influenced the Burmese junta and the attacks only prove that they will do what they think is right,” Aung Kyaw Zaw analysed.

Meanwhile, Peng Jiasheng, the fugitive leader of the Kokang Army, issued a statement on Friday, August 28, 2009 accusing the Burmese Army of violating the ceasefire agreement that they had for 20 years by launching attacks on them.

Denying the junta’s allegations of the MNDAA’s involvement in drug production and arms manufacturing and smuggling, Peng said, “Understanding the severe impact caused by drugs, Chairman Peng Jiasheng in 2002 declared Kokang as a drug-free zone.”

The statement also said “if the Kokang Army falls today, the junta will target other groups next. Therefore, we urge our allies to stand together and fight together against the junta.”

Last Updated ( Monday, 31 August 2009 23:00 )  

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