Myanmar insurgents attack casino and security forces near Chinese border

Ethnic insurgents in Myanmar killed 19 people, including four members of the security forces, in an attack on security posts and a casino near the border with China, a Myanmar government spokesman said on Saturday.

A spokesman for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), made up of fighters from the Ta’ang or Palaung ethnic group, admitted it had targeted soldiers and militia who ran the casino on the outskirts of the border town of Muse in northern Shan state.

The TNLA and other insurgent groups are fighting with authorities in Myanmar for greater autonomy for ethnic minorities in the area.

The conflict, including in the northern-most state of Kachin, has escalated over the past month as the international focus remains on the Rohingya crisis in the west of the country. The fighting has displaced thousands of people in the past month.

Around 100 insurgents launched the attack near the Chinese border early Saturday at about 5 a.m. (22.30 Friday UTC) using small arms and artillery, and were repelled by armed police and members of government-backed “paramilitaries,” the Myanmar government spokesman, Zaw Htay, said

Fifteen civilians, including two women, were killed, and 20 were injured, he said, citing information from police.

“Now the Myanmar military is attacking and following them. They ran away after attacking the civilian targets,” said Zaw Htay. “This is not an ethnic rights movement, this is a terrorist attack.”

Read more: Myanmar’s Rohingya: A history of forced exoduses

Revenge assault

TNLA spokesman Colonel Tar Aik Kyaw conceded civilians could have been caught in the cross fire.

“The militia are protecting the casinos — those casinos are the gateway for distributing drugs. Many civilians they go to the casinos and it causes many social problems, so we launched a major assault,” Tar Aik Kyaw said.

He said the attack was in retaliation for recent attacks on TNLA outposts and for a military offensive against its ally — the Kachin Independence Army — in Kachin state, which occupies the southern tip of the Himalayas.

ap/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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