Thousands of Myanmarese soldiers attacked tribal fighters who are using bases in the Southeast Asian nation to fight for independence from India, a rebel spokesman said Tuesday. The ongoing offensive by as many as 3,000 Myanmarese soldiers began three days ago and is targeting a faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, which is fighting for a homeland for the Naga people in a border region of India, said the group's spokesman, Kughalu Mulatonu. No tribal fighters have been killed yet, but three have been arrested, he said. Myanmar officials were not immediately available for comment.
Mulatonu said there have been "intermittent gun fights" since the start of the offensive against the Indian rebels in the dense forests and mountains, classic insurgent country, that run along the porous 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) border separating Myanmar from India. "These are early days of the Myanmar army assault and our fighters are holding on to their positions and have not suffered any casualties so far," he said. Dozens of insurgent groups, most claiming to represent minority ethnic or tribal communities, have been fighting for decades in India's northeast, demanding independent homelands or autonomy.
The group being targeted in Myanmar says it has nearly 5,000 fighters, a claim that could not be independently verified, and is one of three Naga rebel factions that signed cease-fires with India in 2003.
Relations between India and Myanmar soured after the military took power in Myanmar in 1988, but have improved significantly in the last five years and the militaries of both countries have been working together to combat insurgencies and drug trafficking, reports the AP. I.L.