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The Kokang Self-Administered Zone’s capital Laogai, in northern Shan State, came under attack early Monday morning, with a spokesman for the coalition of ethnic armed groups identifying itself as the Northern Alliance saying one of its members was responsible for the assault.
The Ta’ang National Liberation Army’s Mong Aik Kyaw said members of the Kokang ethnic armed group known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), part of the Northern Alliance, were behind Monday’s attack.
“We are aware that there has been fighting but we don’t know the details,” the TNLA spokesman said. He went on to explain that although the MNDAA is a Northern Alliance member, the coalition was “not an umbrella organisation — the groups still operate under their own leadership and command.”
“The fighting in [Laogai] is between the MNDAA … and government forces,” Mong Aik Kyaw added.
Speaking to DVB on Monday, a Buddhist monk at a monastery in Laogai said, “There are very loud noises. We have reports on deaths and injuries but we don’t know exactly how many because we are too scared to go outside.”
Another local also told DVB he had seen dead bodies in the streets.
The attackers launched their assault on Laogai, near the Chinese border, at about 2am on Monday morning.
The Facebook page of the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation said a schoolteacher in Laogai was killed when the Kokang capital came under attack. The federation said Pya Mi, a teacher from the Long Eh Chi Primary School, was killed shortly after fighting first broke out in Laogai. The deceased has an infant who is just months old and the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation pledged to support the child and the rest of the surviving family.
In a statement posted to its Facebook page, the State Counsellor’s Office Information Committee confirmed that a teacher was one of at least 10 people killed in Monday’s attack. The statement, which was accompanied by grisly photos of maimed and slain victims of the attack, said five police officers and five civilians were killed.
Like Mong Aik Kyaw of the TNLA, the information committed pinned responsibility for the attack on the MNDAA.
The Northern Alliance was formed in November, comprising the MNDAA, TNLA, Kachin Independence Army and Arakan Army.
Their combined forces launched a coordinated attack on the northern Shan State townships of Muse and Kutkai on 20 November, with that assault and intermittent conflict since then killing at least 160 people, according to the Burma Army.
At a press conference last week, the Burma Army’s chief of general staff, General Mya Tun Oo, said casualties over the last three months included 74 soldiers, 15 police officers, 13 government militia fighters and 13 civilians, with 45 bodies of “enemies” recovered and many more deaths of Northern Alliance forces suspected.
The MNDAA and government forces also clashed in February 2015 and the months that followed, after MNDAA troops launched an attack on Laogai in an attempt to seize control of the town. Laogai was temporarily overrun by the MNDAA, but government security forces eventually regained it.
This story was updated at 6:04 p.m. to include information from the statement of the State Counsellor’s Office Information Committee.