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September 21, 2017

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Myanmar poised to attack: rebels

BANGKOK--Myanmar's army is poised for a major assault on Kachin minority rebels, the guerilla group said Thursday, despite calls for an end to the violence which has cast a shadow over the new regime's reforms.

Around 2,000 government forces have moved into place around the northern town of Laiza — a key rebel stronghold, an official for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The apparent troop build-up follows calls by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday for an end to fighting, which has forced thousands to flee into neighboring China.

"They are preparing to attack the KIA base in Laiza ... they have reinforced a lot of troops and sent a lot of artillery but have not attacked yet," the official said, claiming rebel forces number around 3,000.

Civil war has gripped parts of Myanmar since independence in 1948.

But Myanmar's government has agreed ceasefires with several ethnic rebel groups as part of reforms since coming to power last year, a move also aimed at the international community which links eased sanctions with the peace process.

In January President Thein Sein's government told the military to halt all offensives in ethnic minority conflict zones.

But violence in the Kachin area, reignited after a 17-year cease-fire was shattered last year, has continued to rage prompting fears it could obstruct national peace.

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