Ethnic rebels in Myanmar’s northeastern Kokang region have declared a unilateral ceasefire, the group announced on Thursday, withdrawing from positions near the border with China.
Kokang rebels have been fighting against government troops for years and the fighting intensified in the last four months, spilling over China in many times and leaving hundreds of dead. The conflict has forced thousands of people to flee to China.
Rebel spokesman Htun Myat Lin told Associated Press the fighters decided to declare a ceasefire in response to an appeal by China for stability along the border region.
The group also said they are concerned that ongoing conflict could impede general elections expected later this year. They said they will defend themselves if attacked by government forces.
The Kokang Special Region has been under martial law since last February, and Kokang rebels have been excluded from peace talks that Myanmar's government hopes will achieve a nationwide ceasefire agreement before the upcoming election.
The Kokang rebels are of ethnic Chinese descent and Myanmar's government has accused other ethnic groups, as well as a former Chinese soldier, of supporting the rebels.
Cross-border fire has killed at least seven Chinese nationals near the border and has been protested by China several times. China has repeatedly called on Myanmar to restore stability to the region.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which is currently hosting Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has welcomed the ceasefire.
The government said it is aware of the ceasefire announcement but remain skeptical, saying they "are monitoring their actual activity on the ground."
Tension on Indian border
Meanwhile, Myanmar's other neighbour India has claimed in recent days that its armed forces killed hundreds of rebels after the rebels from Myanmar killed at least 20 Indian soldiers in an ambush.
Indian soldiers attacked two militant camps in the India-Myanmar border region, the army said, where dozens of ethnic groups and small guerrilla armies are fighting against New Delhi's rule. Some want to secede from India, while others seek greater autonomy.
While India has claimed its soldiers conducted two operations "inside Myanmar," the country's government officials deny that any foreign military operation occurred in its territory.
The officials said Myanmar would not allow any activity against a neighbouring country on its land.
The reports of a cross-border military operation also troubled Pakistan, as Islamabad said "it is not Myanmar" and warned India against attempting similar operations on its soil. The Indian army has carried out operations against militants in Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan in the past.