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Conflict

Myanmar imposes martial law in troubled Kokang region

President Thein Sein has declared a state of emergency in Myanmar's eastern region of Kokang. A three-month period of martial law has also been imposed there after fighting broke out between ethnic minority rebels.

Myanmar's president appeared in two separate broadcasts on state television on Tuesday evening, announcing that the 90-day state of emergency had been declared "to restore the region to its original situation," while military administration had been implemented in order "to restore peace and tranquility and law and order."

States of emergency have previously been declared in cases of sectarian conflict in the western state of Rakhine, and for localized instances of fighting between Buddhists and Muslims.

Tuesday's announcement, however, marked the first time that Sein's government has instituted military administration, giving the army executive and judicial powers in the designated region.

Fighting broke out between the Myanmar army and an ethnic Kokang force called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) on February 9, shattering six years of relative calm in the long-restive region of Shan state.

According to Myanmar's government, more than 50 of its troops have been killed and 73 wounded since last Monday. A further 26 were also killed on the Kokang side.

The MNDAA was previously part of the Communist Party of Burma, a powerful Chinese-backed guerrilla force that battled the Myanmar government before splintering in 1989.

Although it remains unclear what sparked the resurgence of conflict with Kokang rebels, authorities have blamed local Kokang rebel leader Phone Kya Shin for stoking the violence. Neighboring China has also been called upon to rein in any local officials who might be helping the rebel group on the Chinese side of the border.

Beijing called for peace on the troubled border territory last week amid fears that the conflict could result in a further increase in the huge influx of Kokang refugees. Some 30,000 Myanmar refugees fled into Chinese Yunnan province last week alone.

ksb/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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