Dozens said killed in Myanmar fighting

Feb 13, 2015, 1:01 AM EST
This picture taken on February 3, 2015 shows Shan State Army - South (SSA-S) soldiers in Loi Tai Leng, in Myanmar's northeastern Shan State, a few days ahead of the 68th Shan National Day celebrations which were held on February 7 at the SSA-S headquarters in Loi Tai Leng.
AFP/Getty Images

Nearly 50 soldiers have been killed in three days of fighting between government troops and Kokang ethnic rebels in Myanmar, state media report. The BBC cites The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper as sayinh airstrikes had been used in the response to the flare-up in Shan state, near the Chinese border.

It comes as the government tries to sign a peace deal with rebel groups.

There are reports that thousands of people have been leaving the area to escape the fighting, including some who have crossed the border in to China. Myanmar (also known as Burma) said it had formally informed China of the fighting.

The newspaper said there had been at least 13 separate clashes in the area in recent days with the Kokang rebels, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). Rebels attacked army bases close to Laukai, capital of the Kokang area of Shan state, it said.

At least 47 soldiers were killed and more than 70 injured, it said. It did not indicate any rebel casualty figures.

Myanmar has been trying for decades to contain conflicts involving ethnic rebel movements seeking greater autonomy, largely in Shan and Kachin states. President Thein Sein has been pushing for peace deals with these groups, and while many have come into the political fold sporadic outbreaks of violence have continued.

Meanwhile, Myanmar has stripped away temporary voting rights given to the country's embattled Rohingya minority only a day earlier, following protests by Buddhist nationalists, according to CNN.

About 1.3 million Rohingya, a Muslim minority, live in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are regarded as foreign interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh, and face widespread prejudice. Hundreds of thousands instead hold temporary identity papers known as white cards.

On Tuesday, a bill was enacted with a clause that would give white card holders the right to vote in a proposed referendum on the country's constitution.

The move prompted protesters, including many Buddhist monks, to take to the streets of Yangon Wednesday, demanding that the law be revoked.