Myanmar's government forces have seized three strategic hilltops from the Kokang ethnic army in a series of fierce fighting since April 5 using heavy weapons, the military-run Myawaddy media reported Thursday.
In addition to taking over other small hills nearby, the government troops have controlled the entire San Ta Aik Shun highland and have been pursuing Kokang's Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) which is retreating, the report said.
In its all-out offensive since April 5, the government forces seized 44 bunkers, a variety of weapons and ammunition. A total of 16 government soldiers were killed with 110 others wounded, according to the report.
Heavy fighting has been going on intermittently since Feb. 9. between the government forces and the MNDAA which was once the first ethnic armed group having made a peace deal with the then military government.
Unofficial statistics show that as of now the government side has sustained 128 deaths with 397 others wounded, while 106 bodies of MNDAA soldiers have been retrieved.
Meanwhile, peace negotiators of the government and ethnic armed groups concluded talks over a draft nationwide cease-fire agreement on March 30 and the draft accord was preliminarily signed in Yangon on March 31. The document will be signed formally after the approval of the top leadership of all sides concerned.
The ethnic armed groups' Nationwide Cease-fire Coordination Team (NCCT) insisted that the MNDAA is a member of the NCCT and exclusion of it in the signing of the nationwide cease-fire agreement could not bring peace.
Early this week, the United Nationalities Federal Council, established by the ethnic groups, demanded Myanmar President U Thein Sein to stop military offensive against the Kokang ethnic army, which is member of both the council and the NCCT.