Myanmar rebels claim control of another northern town

Fall of Laukkai follows offensive that began in October

Myanmar rebels said they took control of Laukkai, the capital of the Kokang region, after the local military command surrendered. Reuters
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An alliance of Myanmar rebels claims it controls a town along the volatile northern border with China after weeks of fighting with junta troops.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance, as the group is known, said on Friday that it took over Laukkai, capital of the Kokang region, after the military's regional headquarters surrendered.

The fall of Laukkai is the latest victory in an offensive by rebels that began in October and has become the most significant threat to Myanmar's military government since it seized power in a 2021 coup.

“All Kokang region has become a land with no Myanmar Military Council any more,” the statement said.

Government spokesman Maj Gen Zaw Min Tun told the Popular News Journal, a pro-army website, on Saturday that the military relinquished control of Laukkai after considering many aspects, including the safety of the family members of the soldiers stationed there.

He said the military also took into consideration Myanmar’s relationship with China, which is just across the border from the town.

The alliance comprises three groups with extensive fighting experience – the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA).

They were accompanied by members of the loosely organised People's Defence Force, supported by Myanmar's parallel National Unity Government (NUG), suggesting that the rebellion is becoming better organised and executed.

Armed conflict between the military and rebel groups has surged in Myanmar's north since late October. China, which has helped dialogue between the two sides, has called for a ceasefire.

Laukkai has a reputation as a gambling den and a centre for online scam operations.

China, a junta ally that also has close relations with some ethnic Chinese militias along the frontier, has grown increasingly frustrated by the junta's lack of action to close the centres.

At the start of their October offensive, the Three Brotherhood Alliance said their objectives included shutting them.

In late December, China urged its citizens to leave the Laukkai area on security grounds.

Laukkai is a former headquarters of the MNDAA.

The surrender of the town “marks the first regional operation command to fall”, political analyst Ye Myo Hein said in a post on social media platform X.

“The surrender of 2,389 military personnel in Laukkai, including six brigadier general commanders, marks the largest surrender in the history of Myanmar's military,” he said.

Myanmar's military has more than a dozen regional operation commands across the country.

Updated: January 07, 2024, 10:55 AM