2009 Kokang incident
|Part of the internal conflict in Myanmar|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Pheung Kya-shin||Vice Senior General Maung Aye|
|Casualties and losses|
|According to junta government:
640 weapons seized
|According to junta government:
|1 Chinese civilian killed
The Kokang incident was a violent conflict or series of skirmishes that broke out in August 2009 in Kokang in Myanmar's northern Shan State. Several clashes between the Burmese military junta forces (including the Myanmar Armed Forces, also known as Tatmadaw, and the Myanmar Police Force) and ethnic minorities took place. As a result of the conflict, the MNDAA lost control of the area and as many as 30,000 refugees fled to Yunnan province in neighbouring China.
Before the events, the military government had a cease-fire with most of the region's ethnic groups since 1989. Since 2008, however, the military junta has proposed that the ethnic armies (so-called "cease-fire groups") be assimilated into the Tatmadaw and converted into "border guards"; most of the ethnic armies have opposed this. Some political analysts claim[who?] that the junta's motivation for this proposal is to "disarm" and "neutralize" the cease-fire groups before the Burmese general election scheduled to take place sometime in 2010.
The Kokang Special region is a self-administrating area in northern Shan State; it has been ruled by chairman Pheung Kya-shin (Peng Jiasheng, 彭家声) since its establishment in 1989, and is populated mostly by Kokang people (果敢), the name for Han Chinese living in Myanmar. Since its inception, Kokang has been implicated in the illegal drug trade and trafficking as well as gambling and prostitution.
Kokang has its own army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), not to be confused with the National Democratic Alliance Army (or Mongla Group). The MNDAA reportedly has about 1,000 to 1,500 soldiers. Recently there has been an inter-faction split within the army, with Pheung being opposed by deputy chairman Bai Suoqian—while Pheung has opposed efforts to integrate the Kokang army with the Tatmadaw, Bai has supported it and gained the junta's backing. According to the newspaper Shan Herald, several factions of the Kokang army have become loyal to the junta, and three high-ranking army officials informed the junta government that Pheung was secretly producing illicit weapons and drugs.
Drug raid and standoff
Tensions came to a head on 8 August when the junta military, acting on a tip-off from China, moved into the region for a raid on a gun factory suspected of being a drug front and on Kokang leader Pheung's home. This confrontation, according to the newspaper Shan Herald, was only a "stand-off", with no shots being fired; nevertheless, it triggered a mass exodus of locals who were worried about the possibility of violence. and a resident of the Kokang regional capital Laukkai later described the city as a "ghost town". Chinese officials had to intervene in the face-off, and by 17 August officials claimed that the situation in Kokang was "normal" again.
By 20 August, however, government troops were beginning to gather near Laukkai, and Kokang leaders reportedly urged residents to "be prepared", which prompted even more people to flee. On 24 August, junta troops captured and occupied Laukkai "without firing a shot". The anti-junta Kachin News claimed that the takeover was aided by a "mutiny" staged by Kokang army leaders who had become loyal to the junta.
On 27 August, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army began to open fire on junta troops outside the city; according to a government statement, the Kokang army raided a police checkpoint near the border. Later Wa, Kachin, and as many as nine other ethnic groups joined in the fighting; the United Wa State Army, Myanmar's largest ethnic military force, was also involved in the fighting, as was the National Democratic Alliance Army (also known as Mong La). On 27 and 28 there were more battles in the villages of Yan Lon Kyaik and Chin Swe Haw, near the Chinese border. Across the border, the Chinese army increased its numbers in attempt to maintain border stability.
By late 29 August, the United States-based Campaign for Burma claimed that as many as 700 Kokang fighters, outnumbered by junta troops, had fled, surrendered to the Chinese, and given up their weapons. Kokang soldiers interviewed in China after surrendering also said they had been overrun. While the Kokang army appears to have been routed, the larger United Wa State Army was still active, and Al Jazeera reported that the government was requesting reinforcements to deal with them; the New York Times, however, reported that the Wa army had withdrawn as early as 28 August. The government issued a statement on 30 August claiming that the fighting had ended, and later formed a new "Kokang Region Provisional Leading Committee" in Laukkai.
Casualties and refugees
No official casualty count was released in the first two days of fighting, although Pheung Kya-shin claimed that his forces had killed over thirty Tatmadaw troops. One Chinese person was killed during fighting when a bomb went over the border. On 30 August, the junta government released its first figures, claiming that the fighting had killed twenty-six junta troops (fifteen police, eleven soldiers) and wounded forty-seven (thirteen police, thirty-four soldiers), and that eight rebel bodies had been found so far; the figures have not been independently confirmed, however.
From 8 to 12 August, as many as 10,000 residents fled to Yunnan province in neighbouring China, becoming refugees. The total number of refugees fleeing in the entire month may be as high as 30,000, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and later the Yunnan provincial government. Yunnan's police chief later reported that the number of refugees in Yunnan reached 37,000, including Burmese refugees as well as Kokang. Yunnan government officials stated they have established seven locations (particularly near the city of Nansan, where most of the refugees arrived) to house and treat the refugees; some locals, however, claimed that not all the refugees were being housed, or were being housed in unfinished buildings and tents. According to one refugee, about 13,000 of the refugees were housed in the tents, and 10,000–20,000 more stayed with friends or family in the area. By 31 August, some refugees (as many as 4,000, according to local officials, or 2,800 according to the junta government) had started returning to Kokang; by mid-September, Chinese officials said over 9,000 refugeees had returned and Myanmar officials said over 13,000; many refugees, however, were still afraid to go back.
Pheung was also rumoured to have fled Kokang, and is currently in China, although his precise location has not been revealed. Before the Kokang forces surrendered, he claimed that he was still controlling them from abroad.
Although China has in the past supported the military junta, during the conflict, it had instead warned Myanmar to end the situation, saying they should "properly handle domestic problems and maintain stability in the China-Myanmar border region" and urging Burma to protect "Chinese citizens in Myanmar". Chinese officials were said to be "furious" and "extermely [sic] upset" over not being forewarned about the offensive on the border. Chinese and other analysts expressed concern that this conflict could lead to a civil war in Burma. The Burmese Foreign Ministry later apologised to China about the incident, but also ran a story on the Dalai Lama in the government newspaper the Myanmar Times, the first mention of him in the state controlled Burmese media for 20 years.
The United Nations has also expressed concern about reports of fighting and thousands of refugees fleeing across the border. The United States government also voiced its concern, and called on the junta to end its military campaign against the cease-fire groups.
After the fighting ended, the new Kokang leader claimed that the Kokang people would participate in the 2010 general elections; other cease-fire groups such as the Wa and Kachin still maintain that they will not participate.
Bai Xuoqian, vice-president under Peng Jiasheng, become new head of KoKang with the support of ruling junta in 2009. The portion of the MNDAA loyal to him became Border Guard Force #1006. He is also head of Kokang Self Administered Zone and a member of Myanmar parliament in 2011. The area was peaceful till new clashes between Peng Jiasheng's troops and Myanmar troops erupted in February 2015.
Major General Huang Xing, the former head of the research guidance department at the Chinese Academy of Military Science, was ousted in 2015 because of his relationship with MNDAA during this incident.
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