Deadly Clashes in Kokang Region in Myanmar

At least 30 people died during fighting in Laukkai between Myanmar army forces and armed fighters from ethnic groups.

The attack targeted three Laukkai locations including police and military posts. At least five traffic control police and five civilians were killed.

Artillery and small arms were fired in Laukkai, capital of the Kokang special region and an important trading town on the Salween River, which forms Myanmar’s border with China.

The latest attack comes amid efforts by Myanmar’s de facto leader, Noble Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, to bring all ethnic armed groups into the government-sponsored peace process through the signing of a nationwide cease-fire agreement.

This violence is among the worst to hit the Kokang region, in the northern part of Shan state, since 2015.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s office blamed the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) for the attack.

The Northern Alliance and government forces have clashed repeatedly in other northern areas of Shan State. Government authorities have blocked roads leaving Laukkai.

The Northern Alliance is led by the KIA, which includes the MNDAA. Members of the alliance have yet to join Myanmar’s National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Complicating matters, Myanmar’s military officials refuse to speak with representatives of the MNDAA for reasons that are unclear.

The ethnic Kokang group controlled Laukkai and the surrounding area until 2009, when the government ousted the group’s leader, Phon Kyar Shin, who is also known by his Chinese name, Peng Jiasheng.

In February 2015, he orchestrated attacks on Laukkai, which triggered several months of deadly clashes between government and rebel forces in the border area.