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Myanmar-Kokang Clashes Continue Near China Border

In this photo released by the Myanmar Defense Ministry, soldiers place urns containing ashes of soldiers fallen during recent fighting against ethnic Kokang rebels at a military funeral in Lashio, Myanmar, Feb. 23, 2015.

Clashes are continuing between Kokang rebels and Myanmar government troops, despite the return of hundreds of civilians to a conflict-ridden town.

Rebel spokesman Tun Myat Lin told VOA's Burmese service on Tuesday that the government had engaged in a six-hour offensive against the Kokang.

"It started at 6:30 this morning," he said. "They used both heavy artillery and ground forces. They retreated and again started hitting with artillery, also using ground forces. This pattern continued till 11 a.m. Our side did not suffer any casualties."

However, the government said one policeman and three soldiers were killed, while seven others were wounded. The government said 40 prisoners were wounded when their truck was attacked while they were being transported to a safer area.

Despite the continuing violence, General Aung Ye Win, public affairs director for the Defense Ministry, told VOA Burmese that the situation in Laukkai town was becoming stable and that hundreds of residents who fled the fighting were returning to their homes.

Fighting has left at least 130 people dead in the region and has forced tens of thousands to flee across the border into China.

The United States has said it is deeply concerned by the fighting and has called on all sides to exercise restraint and return to a dialogue.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.