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Fighting between ethnic Kokang rebels and government forces in northeastern Myanmar's Shan state has left 47 troops dead and 73 wounded in the past three days, the Myanmar army said in a statement on Thursday.

The latest casualty numbers were revealed as Myanmar's President Thein Sein met with leaders of armed ethnic groups in the capital Naypyidaw to sign a preliminary peace agreement with four rebel armies amid the country's Feb. 12 Union Day celebrations.
The army said it had imposed martial law in Laukkai, the capital of the Kokang region in the northern part of Shan state near Myanmar's river border with China.? Fighting erupted Monday between government forces and rebel troops, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

The army statement said the casualties included five officers and 42 of "other ranks" killed, and 11 officers and 62 other troops wounded, including a lieutenant colonel. No casualty figures were given for the MNDAA or civilians.

The army said it had engaged in 13 clashes with "renegades" since Feb. 9, and called up heavy artillery and air support from helicopter gunships in five of the battles.

More than 100 refugees had fled villages in the combat zone and taken shelter at Mansu monastery in Lashio, the monastery's abbot told RFA's Burmese Service. The Irrawaddy online newspaper reported on Wednesday that thousands of residents of Kokang had fled into neighboring China's Yunnan province to escape fighting.
Local Myanmar media reports earlier this week said the MNDAA and allied rebel groups were fighting to retake the Kokang self-administered zone, which the MNDAA had controlled until 2009.
The MNDAA was formerly part of a China-backed guerrilla force called the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), and became the first of about a dozen factions to sign a bilateral cease-fire agreement with the government after the group broke apart in 1989.

However, the agreement faltered in 2009 when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of Myanmar's military--a move the MNDAA resisted.
In December, seven soldiers from Myanmar's military were killed and 20 others wounded in an attack by the MNDAA on an army outpost in Shan state around 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Chinese border.
Union Day agreement.

The latest casualty numbers were revealed as Myanmar's President Thein Sein met with leaders of armed ethnic groups in the capital Naypyidaw to sign a preliminary peace agreement with four rebel armies amid the country's Feb. 12 Union Day celebrations.

The casualties in Shan state, the greatest death toll since Thein Sein took office in 2010, put a damper on government efforts to sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement with armed ethnic groups on Myanmar's 68th Union Day, which marks a 1947 deal ahead of independence from British colonial rule that provided autonomy for major ethnic minority areas in exchange for remaining part of the country.

Thein Sein met with around a dozen armed ethnic groups for hours during a Union Day banquet Thursday in the capital, but was able to win a commitment to work towards peace from just four rebel groups:? the Karen National Union (KNU), the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), the KNU-KNLA Peace Council and the Southern Shan State RCSS-SSA.

Under the agreement, according to results from political dialogue which would follow any nationwide cease-fire, the government and its opponents will build a union based on democracy and a federal system which includes national equality, justice, and autonomy.
They also agreed to sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement "as soon as possible," to be followed by political discussions focusing on giving greater representation to ethnic groups as Myanmar transitions into a democracy following nearly five decades of military rule.

Thein Sein called the pledge-which was also signed by speaker of the lower house of parliament Shwe Mann, upper house speaker Khin Aung Myint, and representatives of the military-"an important milestone" for the country's peace process, despite nine of the attending rebel groups refusing to take part.

KNU chairman Mutu Say Poe told RFA he signed Thursday's agreement because he wanted to "forge ahead" with the nation's peace process.
Senior advisor for the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center Hla Maung Shwe, who took part in the signing event, called the pact "a promise," rather than a treaty.

"This is the beginning of the political dialogue. We can say it's a 'pre-political dialogue,'" he told RFA.

"I understand that today we made a promise so that we can all march toward a federalism that is truly peaceful and pleasant. This is not an agreement or treaty. Therefore, in legal terms, it is 'non-binding.' It is a promise."

Representatives of armed ethnic groups which did not sign the agreement said they had been given no advance warning and felt they could not proceed without first discussing the proposal internally.
"It's not that we won't sign this agreement--we agree to it--but all of our ethnic brothers, including those who have misunderstandings, should participate in signing," Khun Myint Tun, chairman of the Pa-Oh National Liberation Organization (PNLO), told RFA.

"Whether developing a roadmap for the country or developing policy, I don't want that we, on the one hand, are fighting [against the government], while others are in agreement. I want a policy where no one is arguing, but everyone is acting in unison," he said.
Aung Myint, a spokesperson for the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which also attended the meeting but did not sign, said that he would have to present the proposal to his group before proceeding.
"The invitation simply asked for us to attend a Union Day event--nothing else was mentioned, so we don't have a decision from our central committee," he said.

Representatives from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) or MNDAA were absent from the celebrations, as was another rebel group known as the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).

The Burmese government has reached bilateral ceasefire agreements with more than a dozen armed groups since 2011, with the notable exception of the TNLA, the KIO and the MNDAA, which was involved in clashes with the army this week.

Myanmar's government says signing a nationwide cease-fire agreement is central to the success of reform and development in the nation, which saw Thein Sein's nominally civilian government take power from the former junta following elections in 2010.
Last September, the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents more than a dozen rebel groups, and the government's Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) failed to reach a nationwide cease-fire agreement after five days of talks.
The meetings ended following disagreements over military issues and a format for talks on providing greater power to ethnic states, although they agreed in principle to a new draft accord.

Sporadic attacks by armed ethnic groups and government forces in various hotspots around the country have also prevented significant progress in the ongoing talks between government and rebel negotiators.

Myanmar's ethnic groups have been seeking a federal system since the former British colony known as Burma gained independence after World War II, but the country's former military rulers have resisted their efforts because they equate local autonomy with separatism.

Copyright 1998-2014, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036
Updated at 6:00 p.m. EST on 2015-02-12 Fighting between ethnic Kokang rebels and government forces in northeastern Myanmar Shan state has left 47 troops dead and 73 wounded in the past three days, the Myanmar army said in a statement on Thursday.
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Continuously updating news headlines, business, sport and weather. Links to local newspapers, Myanmar airlines and a map of Myanmar. One of the most comprehensive Myanmar news sites on the web, featuring news from South East Asia and global sources.
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A group of 180 civil society organizations in Myanmar have called on parliament to drop four proposed bills they say contravene domestic and international laws, adding that the legislation could destroy the stability of society in the country by stoking religious tension if enacted.
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The 2014 Peace Cup title went to Myanmar, when the Philippines went down 2-3, in extra time Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. The Azkals went to a 2-1 lead after goals by Daisuke Sato in the 50th minute and Phil Younghusband in the 70th minute but gave up three goals thereafter. Myanmar, which opened up the scoring less than 10 minutes into the match, matched stoppage time to go into extra time where striker Soe Min Oo sealed the victory for Myanmar.
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 A 55-minute long video by Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announcing a new front of the terror group in India raised an alert Thursday in the South Asian nation that has the third largest Muslim population in the world after neighbouring Pakistan and Indonesia.

The al-Qaeda leader also addresses Muslims in Myanmar although he uses the name "Burma." This though may have been the work of the translator.

In the video statement released late Wednesday, the terror group which mainly operates from Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan's tribal areas, announced it will launch a new branch in the Indian subcontinent to revive jihadi movement in a region "which was once part of the land of Muslims, until the infidel enemy occupied it and fragmented it and split it".

Al-Zawahiri in the video said the purpose is to "wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty, and to revive its Caliphate".

He in particular addressed parts of the region with large populations of Muslims, seeking to assure that "in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad and Kashmir your (Al Qaeda) brothers did not forget you and that they are doing what they can to rescue you."

The message caused concern in India. Government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they aren't allowed to talk to the media, said internal spy wing the Intelligence Bureau has been asked to authenticate the video, featuring the ageing but reclusive Al-Zawahiri.

Al-Zawahiri took over the leadership of Al Qaeda after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who looks after the internal security arrangement in the country, held a secretive meeting with the heads of the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval also attended the meeting, convened in the backdrop of the Al Qaeda video message. 

Some analysts view al Qaeda's announcement as an indication they're struggling for followers as ISIS gains support in the global Islamist movement.

India, a predominantly Hindu nation, has a 14 percent Muslim population, according to the country's census.

The nation has seen some of the worst religious riots. But in 2002 when current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state's chief minister, Gujarat was wracked with anti-Muslim violence, in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

The 2002 Gujarat riots caused radicalisation of some Muslim youth who went on to join militant groups in Pakistan and allegedly conducted some terror attacks in the country in the last decade.

The region has not been a traditional breeding ground for Al Qaeda. However, the Islamic State, a radical Sunni Islamist group that controls parts of Iraq and Syria, has been reported to have recruited some of the Indian Muslims.

Experts were of the view that the Al Qaeda is trying to revive itself feeling undermined by the Islamic State.

"I don't think this will do a lot to win over constituents," said Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, about the India announcement of Al Qaeda.

"They are losing a lot of constituents to the Islamic State, and they are mostly Arabs."

Ajit Sawhney of the South Asia Terrorism Portal in New Delhi said that the Islamic State had severely affected funding.

 The radicalized Muslims are more likely to fund ISIS, he said.

"That's why Al Qaeda is trying to increase its influence", not necessarily trying to gain a foothold in India first time.
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Ms Suu Kyi has been on a visit to Thailand, where she was shown around Mae La Camp, in Tak Province.
She was greeted by thousands of people from the area, many of them refugees from the old Burma who have been living on the border for 45 years.
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Myanmar News.Net is the oldest news portal specialising in servicing Myanmar.
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Myanmar's oldest online news site, Myanmar News.Net, details all the latest news from around the country including the capital Naypyidaw. National news is the major focus with articles too about the country's principal cities such as Mandalay, Mawlamyine, Bago, Monywa, Pathein, Sittwe, Taunggyi, and the nation's largest city Yangon, also known as Rangoon.