World Bulletin / News Desk
At least nine people including four civilians died and dozens were injured Sunday as four rebel groups attacked military checkpoints, police stations and the 105th Mile Trade Zone in Muse district in restive Shan.
The State Counselor Office said in a statement Tuesday that one of those killed was a 40-year-old truck driver found with a bullet wound in his head after rebels withdrew from a major highway.
At least 26,000 villagers are being sheltered in monasteries, churches and with relatives in Muse town as fighting between troops and rebels continues.
The China Daily reported Tuesday that an additional 3,000 people were being housed in temporary shelters in neighboring Yunnan province after fleeing across the border.
Zaw Htay, a spokesman for President Htin Kyaw, expressed concern to the BBC Burmese service that the fighting may have a negative impact on a recent peace deal.
The fighting involved four groups that did not sign up to last year's government-sponsored Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
“It’s a big setback for peace,” he said in an interview. “We, however, still open doors for them to join the peace process.”
The government has said that the over 600-strong army began three separate offensives in the area Sunday, and destroyed two bridges on the Mandalay-Muse highway.
It involved the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Taung National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA).
Although none of the four signed the NCA, the political arm of the KIA did take part in the 21-Century Panglong Conference, also known as the Union Peace Conference, in August -- the first major peace talk under the current government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
The AA, MNDAA and TNLA were banned from the talks and continue to be classified as "terrorists" as the government says they refused to lay down arms prior to Panglong.
The rebels, meanwhile, have accused the military of attempting to wipe out all armed ethnic and political causes, claiming they have no interest in peaceful political negotiation.
A joint statement issued by the groups Monday claimed the assault was inevitable due to the military's disinterest in peaceful negotiation.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) -- an umbrella association of 11 ethnic rebel groups -- said that the latest fighting was making the peace talks “more complicated and difficult”.
He highlighted, however, that Suu Kyi's government had failed to stop growing military offensives in rebel-controlled areas since it took power earlier this year.
“This is the consequences of the government’s ignorance of the military offensive in jungle,” UNFC Secretary Naing Hanthat said by phone.
Since independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar (then Burma) has seen over a half-century of armed conflict, with ethnic rebels embarking on a longstanding battle for greater autonomy and self-administration.
On replacing the military junta in 2011, former President Thein Sein’s administration started peace talks with rebels, which led to the NCA with eight of 21 ethnic groups in October 2015.
However, several major rebel groups -- including the powerful KIA -- refrained.
According to the United Nations humanitarian body, some 4,000 people were displaced in February by fighting between the TNLA and the Shan State Army-South, a signatory to the NCA.
TNLA spokesman Tar Aik Kyaw said that thousands of government troops had since been deployed to areas where the TNLA operates.
“It seems the military is planning to eradicate us from the area,” he claimed Sunday.
China has said it will strengthen control along the border to protect the lives and property of Chinese citizens after stray shells fell in Chinese areas.