YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Ethnic rebels attacked an army outpost in northeast Myanmar, killing seven government troops and wounding 20 others, state media said Monday.
Heavily armed ethnic Kokang guerrillas attacked the outpost last Wednesday, the state-run Myanma Ahlin daily reported, citing the army. The report said the army camp, located near the Chinese border, was surrounded by the guerrillas for two days.
Since coming to power in 2011, the elected government of President Thein Sein has been striving to strike a comprehensive peace agreement with about a dozen ethnic rebel groups that have been fighting for decades for greater autonomy. It has preliminary cease-fires with most, but clashes occur sporadically, and the two sides cannot agree on terms for a political settlement.
The Kokang served as the main fighting force for the now-defunct Burmese Communist Party until signing a cease-fire pact with the then-military government in 1989.
In 2009, the cease-fire was breached when government forces raided a Kokang weapons factory and an explosives plant and reportedly confiscated nearly 12 million methamphetamine tablets from the homes of Kokang leaders who fled.
The army’s offensive was part of an effort to force ethnic groups to incorporate their militias into a government border guard force, a move most resisted. A short series of serious skirmishes sent tens of thousands of refugees fleeing across the border into China for safety, with government forces prevailing.