YANGON (Reuters) - Some 30 people died in clashes between ethnic rebels and Myanmar security forces in a restive area along the border with China on Monday, the government said, dealing a blow to leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s goal of reaching peace with minorities.
Suu Kyi’s nearly one-year-old government is increasingly besieged by ethnic rebels, grappling with an alliance of militias in the north and a new Rohingya insurgency rebelling against decades of persecution in the northwest of the country.
The attack came after the Nobel Peace Prize winner met a delegation of ethnic armed groups last week to convince them to take part in a major peace conference. Suu Kyi swept to power in 2015 on promises of national reconciliation and the meeting was aimed at giving fresh impetus to the stuttering peace process.
“I strongly urge all sides to come to the peace negotiating table by abandoning the armed attacks, which have caused many deaths and problems for the citizens, who are not guilty, and the residents of the area,” Suu Kyi said in a statement reacting to the assault released late on Monday.
Fighters from the predominantly ethnic Chinese Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched a pre-dawn attack on police posts, military installations and government administrators in the capital of the northeastern Kokang region, Laukkai.
As a result, some 30 people died, including civilians and police officers. Hotels and cars were destroyed and four policemen have been taken hostage, the government said.
MNDAA is a part of the Northern Alliance - a coalition of rebel groups comprising one of Myanmar’s most powerful militias, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and two smaller groups that have been in a stand-off with the Myanmar military since clashes in the Kokang area in 2015.
Many died and tens of thousands fled the region during that fighting, which also spilled over into Chinese territory and resulted in the death of five Chinese people, angering Beijing.
Myanmar state television, MRTV, said the fighting with MNDAA was continuing at the time of Suu Kyi’s statement.
Reporting by Aye Win Myint and Shwe Yee Saw Myint; Editing by Gareth Jones