19 dead in fighting between army and rebels — Myanmar military


China yesterday condemned fighting on its border between Myanmar forces and ethnic rebels that has left 19 dead, mostly civilians, in some of the worst bloodshed on the restive frontier in recent years.

"Nineteen [people] were killed in fighting", the military source said, adding that two-dozen had been injured.

Nan Mwe Phown, a Red Cross member who was at a hospital in Muse, said the dead included 13 male civilians and two women, one of whom was pregnant, as well as several police officers.

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A spokesman for the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), made up of fighters from the Ta'ang or Palaung ethnic group, admitted it had targeted soldiers and militia who ran the casino on the outskirts of the border town of Muse in northern Shan state. "This is not an ethnic rights movement, this is a terrorist attack".

At least nine activists have been charged under Myanmar's draconian Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, according to statements released by Human Rights Watch and Fortify Rights after protests were organized in four cities across Myanmar in the past week. "Many civilians they go to the casinos and it causes many social problems, so we launched a major assault", Tar Aik Kyaw said.

In 2017, Chinese authorities estimated a flare-up of violence to have sent more than 20,000 refugees across the border, and fighting in 2009 and 2015 displaced tens of thousands of people.

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Myanmar's patchwork of ethnic groups make up round a third of the population, but the Bamar, or Burmese, have filled the Buddhist-majority country's power structures since independence in 1948.

Saturday's attacks were blamed on the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which claimed responsibility for the operation and apologised for the civilian deaths. Two of the attacks occurred at military bases and the other at a bridge.

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