World Bulletin / News Desk
At least 30 people, including five civilians and five traffic police, were killed Monday in a “surprise” attack authorities blamed on an ethnic Kokang rebel group in the small town of Laukkai near Myanmar’s southeastern border with China.
Four other traffic police were reportedly taken hostage by Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) members.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday urged armed groups to join the dialogue table as the country is struggling to end “the world’s longest running civil war” involving more than a dozen ethnic rebel outfits.
“I strongly urge all the armed groups to abandon the armed attacks that can bring about nothing but sorrows and sufferings on the innocent local tribes and races,” Suu Kyi said in an announcement published in state-run newspapers.
The Laukkai attack came days after representatives from the government and the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) -- an umbrella association of seven rebel groups that did not sign a 2015 ceasefire deal -- reached an agreement in principle over nine points after a series of meetings last week.
Khu Oo Reh, leader of the UNFC delegation, said Friday that if Myanmar’s powerful military agreed to their nine-point proposal, the rebel alliance would sign the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) -- inked by the previous quasi-civilian government and eight out of the 15 groups invited.
“Such armed conflicts cannot bring any good benefits and are devoid of any meaning for all the ethnic nationalities and Union citizens residing in the Union,” Suu Kyi said Tuesday.
The office of military chief Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing confirmed Tuesday that troops killed 20 rebels, amid reports of deaths and injuries among some officers and other military ranks during the attack.
“In the Laukai attack, the Tatmadaw [military] could seize 20 burnt bodies of the insurgent group, 13 kinds of weapons including two RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and related ammunition,” said a statement published by the army-run Myawady newspaper.
“According to the initial investigation, the attacks may include other combined forces together with the MNDAA insurgent group,” it added.
The statement disclosed that the government and military have offered the MNDAA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA) to be allowed to directly participate in political dialogues without the prerequisite of signing the NCA if the groups release an announcement to abandon armed struggle.
The military had previously demanded that the groups surrender in order to join the peace process.
The MNDAA, led by the ethnically Chinese Peng Jiasheng, was formed out of the China-backed Communist Party of Burma, which later disbanded in the late 1980s.
Scores of people died in 2015 when MNDAA troops entered the Kokang self-administered region.
In November last year, the MNDAA along with the powerful Kachin Independent Army, TNLA and AA -- known as the Northern Alliance -- had jointly attacked police stations, military outposts and a trade zone in Shan’s Muse Township.
Several rebel groups, including those in the Northern Alliance, had refused to sign the NCA due to its lack of all-inclusiveness.