Friday, August 28, 2009

Fighting breaks out between Kokang and government troops

by Mungpi
Thursday, 27 August 2009 22:41

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The palpable tension between Kokang and Burmese troops, finally sparked a clash on Thursday with at least three separate gun battles taking place along the Sino-Burmese border.

The first clash, according to border sources, occurred at about 7 a.m. (local time) near the town of Yan Lone Chai on the Sino-Burmese border. In another incident, the Peng Jiasheng led faction of the Kokang Army ambushed government troops which were trailing them in the jungle. Later in the evening, the two armies skirmished near the town of Chin Shui Haw along the border for more than an hour.

“The battle has begun between the Kokang and the junta’s troops,” said Sino-Burmese border based analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw.

On Tuesday, he told Mizzima that fighting seemed imminent as tension between the two groups was building up.

According to Aung Kyaw Zaw and other observers, tension began to mount between the Peng Jiasheng led Kokang rebels and Tatmadaw soldiers after the Kokang, like many other armed ceasefire groups, rejected the junta’s proposal of transforming their army into a Border Guard Force to be controlled by the regime.

Unable to persuade the ceasefire groups to transform, the junta had extended the deadline for the groups to decide on the proposal to October.

Though Peng and his loyalists had rejected the proposal, the junta exploited fissures in the Kokang force as Bai Xuoqian, deputy to Peng, was keen to comply with the junta’s proposal.

Meanwhile, government troops have been infiltrating Kokang Special Region (1) under the pretext of drug eradication, setting up a Regional Operation Command in Lao Kai.

Government troops and police raided Peng’s residence in Lao Kai on August 8 and again on August 21. But Peng evaded both the raids.

Following the raids, the Lashio police station on August 22 served a summons to Peng and three other colleagues, including his brother, to appear before the court. But the four did not show up and as a result the court issued an arrest warrant for Peng and his group.

On the wanted list of the Burmese junta, Peng and his troops, as of Tuesday, moved out of Lao Kai to the north, having lost control over Kokang’s capital.

On Tuesday, sources said government troops reorganized the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and installed Bai Xuoqian as their leader.

But Aung Kyaw Zaw said, “Most of the Kokang troops have joined Peng and only a few remain with Bai in Lao Kai. Bai does not really have an army with him.”

Once members of the powerful Burma Communist Party (BCP), MNDAA, or the Kokang Army, broke away from the BCP in 1989 and signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling junta the same year. The ethnic Chinese Kokang, following the ceasefire pact, enjoyed special privileges and were allotted several business concessions.

Mizzima’s correspondent on the Sino-Burmese border added, “Peng’s troops are now literally breaking away from the ceasefire agreement and are hiding in the jungles.”

Phoe Than Gyaung, spokesperson of the Burma Communist Party, on Thursday said he is aware of the ongoing conflict and tension in the Kokang area and feels sad that they have also fallen victim to the junta’s old and devious trick of divide and rule.

“It is the junta’s tactic to always divide the groups. Though the Kokang has broken away from us, we consider them our good friends and it is sad that there is a conflict amidst them,” Phoe Than Gyuang elaborated.

But he hoped that the Burmese junta might not come down heavily on the Kokang Army as they are busy with plans for the 2010 general election and handling the internal political situation revolving around the sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung Naing Oo, a Thailand-based analyst, on Wednesday told Mizzima that the Kokang case is another classic example of the junta’s tactics in action, and other ceasefire groups including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) can start preparing for their turn.

The UWSA and Kokang Army both broke away from the BCP, once a powerful group that posed a direct threat to the Rangoon government. But the loss of the UWSA, Kokang Army and other groups drastically weakened the BCP to where it is, today, almost non-functional with only a few remaining members.

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