The Kokang rebel group Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) have said that Burmese government forces are throwing everything they have at them in an attempt to capture strategic positions.
Speaking to DVB on Sunday, MNDAA spokesperson Tun Myat Lin rejected Burmese military claims that its units had seized outpost 2202, a key rebel base overlooking the main Kokang town of Laogai [also spelt Laukkai or Laukkaing].
“I assume the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] plans to annihilate us,” he said by telephone from a site near the Chinese border. “They are deploying every conceivable weapon and all their manpower against us.”
He said the MNDAA will not be beaten and can continue to repel the Tatmadaw using a defensive strategy.
On Saturday, the Burmese military’s Myawady news channel reported that government columns had on Thursday last week successfully captured two strategic positions held by the MNDAA north of Laogai, and vowed to clear the area of all remaining Kokang forces.
The report said Burmese units had deployed artillery and airstrikes in bids to capture two hilltops, Point 2202 and Point 2071. It claimed that two Kokang soldiers were captured and 24 bodies recovered from Point 2071, but did not elaborate on whether government forces had seized the base.
Meanwhile on Friday, Burma’s Minister of Information Ye Htut responded to a DVB reporter’s question about stray artillery shells that injured civilians on Chinese territory last week by appearing to lay the blame on Chinese elements.
“We don’t know whether it [artillery fire] is coming from the [Burmese] military or whether it is coming from the Kokang. Before we make a thorough inspection of the site, we cannot make a comment on this issue,” he said.
“The best thing to prevent this sort of incident is to prevent fighting in the border area. You have to ask the question, ‘How did this insurgent group [get] supplied? From where?’
“Beijing says they respect our territory. But there’s a lot of illegal operations across the border, even though the Chinese government doesn’t support this kind of [activity]. There are some individual elements, and it is a long border, with a lot of mountainous areas, and there are very few border control [posts] on both sides.”
The conflict between the MNDAA and Burmese government forces in the Kokang self-administrated region broke out on 9 February. In the meantime, Naypyidaw has refused to allow the MNDAA to be represented at ongoing ceasefire talks.