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Soldiers, rebels die in Shan state clashes
by Staff Writers
Yangon, Myanmar (UPI) Jun 20, 2012

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

A dozen Myanmar soldiers have died in clashes with the Kachin Independence Army in Myanmar's northern Shan state, unconfirmed reports said.

Fighting broke out in five areas in Shan state in eastern Myanmar after the army sent in reinforcements to its security forces, local residents told the expatriate Kachin News Group.

The KIA said one of their men was killed and another injured, noted the report by KNG, based in Thailand to the south of Shan state.

At least two unarmed civilians were killed in their homes this by month by Myanmar soldiers, a resident in one of the towns told KNG.

The long-running fight with rebels in several states including Kachin, Karen, Shan and Mon has been a concern for the military which ruled the country for most of the years since independence from the British in 1948.

The nominally civilian elected government of former military officers and ex-senior junta leaders continues to battle rebels but also seeks negotiations with various political wings of the insurgents.

Many of the rebel groups say they are fighting for more autonomy from the central government, formerly in Yangon and now in the newly built city of Naypyitaw.

The rebels also want the landless and poor farmers to have more social and financial benefits from the exploitation of natural resources -- something many countries are keen to do now Myanmar is on the road to democracy and more open to investment by Western business groups.

However, ethnic tension and ensuing community unrest could derail the government's gradual move toward a more open society, especially if the military clamps down hard on suspected rebels and insurgents.

The long-running fight with the Karen rebels as well as those in the Kachin, Shan and Mon states have dogged the military which ruled the country for most of the years since independence from the British in 1948.

A result of the fighting has been thousands of displaced people from their states to surrounding countries.

Earlier this month Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi told the mostly Karen refugees in Mae La camp in Thailand she will work to get them back to Myanmar as soon as possible.

Suu Kyi, who heads the main opposition party National League for Democracy visited the camp near Mae Sot during a trip to Thailand which borders Karen state, directly south of Shan state.

Mae La camp on the border with Myanmar is one of the largest in Thailand for ethnic Myanmar groups fleeing fighting between rebels and the military.

Meanwhile, a refugee crisis is unfolding on Myanmar's western border with Bangladesh after clashes between Muslim minorities and the majority Buddhists in Rakhine state.

Bangladesh has closed it border crossings with Myanmar, turning people back.

A statement by the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said this week it is increasing its aid to Rakhine state after government estimates claim around 48,000 people have been displaced in the outbreak of violence this month.

A court in Rakhine sentenced two Muslim men to death this week for the rape and murder of a woman -- the event which triggered the sectarian clashes in which at least 50 people died.


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