Defence minister urges extending state of emergency in Kokang

Defence minister urges extending state of emergency in Kokang

Burma’s Ministry of Defence on Thursday has proposed a 90-day extension of the state of emergency in northern Shan State’s Kokang region.

Deputy Defence Minister Lt-Gen Wai Lwin put forward the proposal on Thursday in parliament, urging an extension to the state of emergency and martial law that was issued under a presidential decree in mid-February following an outbreak in hostilities between Kokang rebels and government forces. The three-month decree is set to expire on 17 May.

“As reported in newspapers yesterday [Wednesday], clashes in the Kokang region were still ongoing as of 12 May. The situation is yet to return to normal. We are not the only active participants in this fight. Our enemy is involved too,” Wai Lwin told reporters after the parliamentary session.

“The state of emergency will end on 17 May and we are seeking to extend it. We will know what parliament decides tomorrow [Friday],” he said.

DVB reported on 13 May that the conflict in the Kokang region had recently intensified. Burma’s military claimed that it had seized three outposts of the Kokang rebels, known as the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). However Kokang sources denied that any positions or bases were lost.

The MNDAA is currently being supported by ethnic allies, most notably the Ta-ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army.

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Prior to the outbreak of fighing on 10 February, the Kokang Special Region, otherwise known as Shan State Special Region 1, had seen relative peace in the past two decades. The MNDAA, under the leadership of Peng Jiasheng, enjoyed two decades of ceasefire with the government. This calm faltered in 2009 when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of the Burmese military.

The MNDAA resisted this move, and hostilities from the army increased, purportedly due to MNDAA links with the drug trade.

Peng Jiasheng was subsequently ousted through government-backed mutiny in Kokang, though is said to be behind this most recent fighting.

He was among the ethnic army leaders who met last week at a summit in Shan State’s Panghsang last week, where the March signing of the draft text for a nationwide ceasefire agreement was discussed.

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