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Reports of ferocious fighting in Burma’s restive Kokang region this week have put the government death toll at 21.
State-owned media has carried the figures, which read that 16 Burma army soldiers were killed and 110 injured in an ultimately successful assault on Hill Post 1584 on 15 April. The report cited the government use of airstrikes against the Myanmar Nationalities Alliance Army (MNDAA), as well as tanks and heavy weapons in the action.
A further five Burmese soldiers died as 18 were injured in taking another nearby hill on Monday, according to Naypyidaw. While government troops seized the bodies of two Kokang soldiers, along with weapons including rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
However MNDAA spokesperson Tun Myat Linn rejected the reports, telling DVB that no fighting took place on Wednesday.
“We haven’t lost any posts in the fighting. We retreated from some small posts in the Kho Thang area, in accordance with our strategy, but there was no post lost in the fighting.”
Tun Myat Linn said he believes his force has inflicted 1,800 Burmese army casualties since the conflict started on 9 February, despite just 70 casualties among MNDAA troops.
Meanwhile, the MNDAA have confirmed that they will attend the fourth conference of ethnic army leaders next month, according to Aung Myint of the United Wa Solidarity Army (UWSA).
The conference will be held in the Wa autonomous zone, at UWSA headquarters in Pangsang and will run from 1 – 3 May.
The Kokang army’s attendance comes despite Naypyidaw having urged ethnic groups to shun them from ceasefire discussions.
Burmese military officials said that an invitation for the MNDAA to attend the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) summit would not be “accepted”, according to Aung Myint.
“It’s not like a ban. They said they are not satisfied with the Kokang being invited– that they can’t accept the Kokang,” Aung Myint told DVB.
“They [the MNDAA] said they are coming. So we are submitting the issue to the government again.”
Futher to accepting the MNDAA to the talks, Wa authorities have extended invitations to the Ta-ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army. Both groups are have fought alongside the MNDAA in northern Shan State this year.
The talks will be the fourth such ethnic army conference, and follow latst month’s signing of an agreement on the draft text of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement between the NCCT and the government’s Union Peace-Making Work Committee.
The UWSA, regarded as Burma’s largest standing rebel army, has seen a relatively stable ceasefire with Burmese government forces for around two decades and are not party to the NCCT.