Military says ethnic groups supplying Kokang rebels

Lt-Gen Mya Tun Oo briefs the press on the Laukkaing clashes (Photo – Soe Min Htike/EMG) The United Wa Army, Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Mongla group (also known as the National Democracy Alliance Army)

The United Wa Army, Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Mongla group (also known as the National Democracy Alliance Army) have been aiding the Kokang rebels, Lieutenant-General Mya Tun Oo from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief told a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.

"These groups, which have been helping the Kokang rebels in combat, need to take responsibilities for themselves. Since the sovereignty of our country is being infringed upon, the military will not yield. We will continue to fight them," said Mya Tun Oo.

He said the Kokang rebels had been reinforcing themselves with manpower and weapons to reclaim their land. They could not do this on their own and they had formed an alliance with the Wa, Mongla, KIA and TNLA.

The military holds a press conference on the clashes in Laukkaing area on February 21 (Photo - Soe Min Htike/EMG)

The Kokang rebels were using Type 81-8 rifles which are known to be produced by the Wa army. According to the confessions of captured Chinese citizens, the Wa army has been manufacturing weapons in Pangkham (formerly known as Pangsang) in eastern Shan State, and Chinese military officers and citizens have been serving as military advisers and instructors along the border.

The allied group formed with Kokang rebels and other armed groups aimed to take over the entire Kokang area and Myitkyina to the Chinese border, according to Mya Tun Oo.

The path taken by the eight Chinese citizens with weapons seen on projector

All eight captured Chinese citizens had confessed that Chinese mercenaries had been involved in the Laukkaing clashes, he said.

"Those who were fighting with the rebels told us that they heard commands being given in Kachin and Wa languages. They've even heard women's voices. Also the KIA, Mongla and Wa are involved in this," he said.

"The clashes continued today. We will fight them until the Kokang rebels are unable to take a foothold in this area. Then we will immediately try to bring peace to the area.”

A commercial arms smuggling market was widespread in the border areas and it was difficult to know the amount of munitions that had been smuggled into the country, he said.

The rifle and China-made bomb manufactured from 'Wa' army's factory, seen on projector

"The KIA has denied involvement in this conflict. But soldiers who were fighting in the clashes told us that they heard Chinese, Wa, Kachin, and Shan voices," said Mya Tun Oo.

Seven officers and 47 other ranks had been killed in the Laukkaing conflict since February 12 while 12 officers and 93 other ranks had been injured, the general said. Seven people, including one police officer, had also been killed during the conflict.

The accessories used by Kokang rebels, seen on display

The public has been supporting the military and donated Ks2.4 billion (US$2.4 million) to be divided evenly among the families of the deceased and injured.

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The Wa army's camp seen on display at the press conference.

The military said it would continue to update the media on the conflict. 

While the KIA denied involvement in Laukkaing, the TNLA announced that it had been aiding the rebels. The Wa army is yet to comment.

A military helicopter seen in Laukkaing area on February 20 (Photo – Aung Ye Ko/EMG)