Junta launches new offensive in Kokang after death of rebel group’s founder 

The junta’s forces resumed assaults against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in northern Shan State’s Kokang region this week, a little over two weeks after the death of the rebel group’s founder.  

About 80 soldiers from Infantry Battalion 287, which is based in Karen State, attacked an MNDAA base in Mongko’s Man Kyei ward at 6:30am on Tuesday, said MNDAA information officer Yan Naing. 

“The battle was very serious but there were no casualties on our side,” he told Myanmar Now. “There could be some casualties on the military’s side but we don’t know the exact number.”

In December, the MNDAA said that some 100 junta soldiers died and 80 were injured during an assault in Mongko. 

Fighting died down after that battle. Yan Naing said this week’s assault was an attempt by the military to take advantage of the February 16 death of 94-year-old Peng Jiasheng, who founded the MNDAA in 1989.

Peng Jiasheng passed away aged 94 on February 16 (The Kokang)

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing sent a letter of condolences to the MNDAA on the day of his death, Yan Naing added, but was now launching an attack while the group’s leadership were busy with the fallout.

“The formal letter of condolences means nothing if they’re going to continue the fight,” he said.

The military sent 40 trucks full of soldiers to Mongko from Kutkai Township starting from February 24.  

During Tuesday’s assault, the military fired about 80 artillery shells at an MNDAA base in Mang Yang, which is a few miles southwest of the town of Mongko and is the same base the military attacked when it suffered heavy losses in December.  

Fighting continued on Wednesday morning, with around 100 junta soldiers attacking a base to the west of the Man Pin hills in Mongko’s Mone Paw district. 

The junta soldiers, who were from the Mandalay-based Light Infantry Battalion 420, retreated after 90 minutes, Yan Naing said. 

The fighting has not reached Mongko’s urban centre and the town is operating as usual, said a 50-year-old local resident. 

Some 600 people who fled fighting in the Kawng Long village tract in July last year are still sheltering at a church in Mongko Township. Violence flared in Kokang in the wake of last year’s coup. 

Peng Jiasheng’s funeral will be held on March 29 in Mongla, a border town in eastern Shan State where his daughter lives, Yan Naing said. 

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