This week’s fighting with Kokang rebels has cost the lives of 47 Burmese soldiers – 42 infantrymen and five officers – plus an additional seven local police officers, state media announced on Friday.
“From 9 to 12 February, 13 clashes broke out between the government troops and the Kokang renegade groups, with the former carrying out five airstrikes during the military operations. So far, the fighting has left government forces with 47 dead, 73 wounded and five vehicles destroyed,” reported the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.
The government news said that some 200 Kokang “renegades” – as opposed to government-loyal Kokang units – attacked a Tatmadaw [Burmese army] military base in the Kongyan area on Thursday, shelling the headquarters.
“The Kokang renegade groups were carrying out military operations to capture Laukkai [Laogai] before Union Day [12 February], but the government forces [frustrated] their plan thanks to the cooperation of local people,” the report said. “The Kokang renegade groups were found to be good at military maneuvering with the use of scores of heavy weapons including anti-aircraft machine guns.”
Burma’s President Thein Sein had previously expressed hopes that a nationwide ceasefire would be signed by Union Day. While representatives of several ethnic armed groups, including Mutu Say Poe, commander-in-chief of the Karen National Union, attended a dinner hosted by the president and his wife in Naypyidaw to celebrate the 68th anniversary of Union Day on Thursday evening, representatives of ethnic Palaung, Kachin and Kokang groups did not attend. Fighting continues to rage in those areas, thwarting any hopes of an imminent ceasefire.
Nonetheless, the government used the occasion of Union Day to sign an agreement with ethnic leaders, pledging commitment to the concept of a federal union.
On Thursday, DVB reported claims by an MNDAA representative that Kokang fighters had killed more than 100 Burmese soldiers this week, in fighting that has forced tens of thousands of Kokang civilians to flee their homes and seek shelter on the Chinese side of the border.
Most of the refugees came from Kokang regional capital Laogai, which experienced intense exchanges of gunfire in the streets earlier this week. The town is now reported to be deserted with evidence of looting at local stores.
Shan authorities on Thursday announced a curfew in Laogai.