Myanmar govt battles rebels near Chinese border

Government troops in Myanmar have attacked one of the country`s powerful northern militias with artillery in a bid to force rebel fighters from a strategic region where China is constructing major hydro-power plants.

Last Updated: Jun 14, 2011, 21:10 PM IST

Bangkok: Government troops in Myanmar
have attacked one of the country`s powerful northern militias
with artillery in a bid to force rebel fighters from a
strategic region where China is constructing major hydro-power
plants.

The fighting, which began Thursday, has killed at
least four people and forced 2,000 more to flee, according to
the US Campaign for Burma.

The rebels belong to the Kachin, one of Myanmar`s
sizable ethnic minorities.

Those groups have struggled for decades to win more
autonomy, but their efforts have routinely been met by
military suppression.

Kachin military commander Gwan Maw told US-funded
Radio Free Asia today that the fighting in northern Myanmar`s
Momauk region, near the Chinese border, could spread and
possibly escalate into civil war if the government refused to
negotiate an end to it with the Kachin Independence
Organisation.

The 8,000-strong Kachin militia reached a peace deal
with the country`s former ruling junta in 1994, but the truce
broke down last year after the militia rejected a call by the
government to become border guards under army leadership.

The junta made the appeal ahead of last November`s
elections, Myanmar`s first in 20 years, which paved the way
for a new a civilian government to take over in March that
critics say is a simply a proxy for continued military rule.

The Campaign for Burma, a Washington-based lobbying
group that uses Myanmar`s former name in its title, said
hundreds of Myanmar government troops deployed to the northern
region to force out Kachin forces after they refused to
abandon a strategic base.

The base is located near a major hydro-power project
that being built by China`s state-owned China Datang
Corporation, the group said.

PTI