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Despite Peace Talks, Myanmar Expands Kachin Offensive

FILE - A Kachin soldier mans a frontline position, facing off against the Myanmar government.
FILE - A Kachin soldier mans a frontline position, facing off against the Myanmar government.

Myanmar's Kachin rebels say the government has expanded its offensive against them while continuing peace talks with the country's ethnic groups.

La Nan, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political arm of the Kachin ethnic group, told VOA Monday the latest assault, which includes airstrikes, focused on Kachin bases near the town of Bahmo.

"Given the fact that we were attacked whenever we held talks in the past, [the Myanmar military] appears to be taking advantage of the current talks in Yangon by invading our small bases. But, the attack hasn't seemed to disrupt the peace talks," he said.

The government has not responded to VOA's request for comment on the latest violence. No casualties have been reported from either side.

The government and armed ethnic groups, including the Kachin, ended talks Sunday on a possible nationwide cease-fire deal. Ahead of the meeting, top leaders of the rebel delegation also held a separate meeting in Naypyidaw with the President Thein Sein and Army Chief General Min Aung Hlaing.

The military has accused the Kachin of aiding Kokang rebels in their fight against the government. The Kachin have denied the allegation, but a Kokang spokesman appeared to confirm the government's position during an interview with VOA earlier this month.

The Kokang offensive began February 9 when an alliance of armed groups attacked multiple Myanmar military positions in an effort to regain land lost in a 2009 conflict.

Myanmar’s military has declared martial law and a state of emergency in Kokang, with thousands fleeing into China’s southern Yunnan province to escape the violence.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese Service.