Myanmar says 22 dead in Kachin fighting this month

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels in Myanmar's northeastern state of Kachin has left at least 22 people dead this month, state-run media reported Sunday.

The clashes in Kachin come despite efforts by the government to forge a nationwide cease-fire agreement with all armed ethnic groups within the next few months — a deadline that has repeatedly been pushed back because of ongoing clashes.

The latest violence erupted on April 4 after members of the Kachin Independence Army ambushed an army column in the Man Wein Gyi region, the Kyemon daily said.

The "mopping up" operation that followed resulted in the capture of a rebel camp, the paper reported, adding that at least 14 government troops and eight rebels were killed.

The KIA is the only major rebel group that has yet to reach a cease-fire deal with Myanmar President Thein Sein's nominally civilian government, which came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of harsh military rule.

Fighting with the Kachin Independence Army has been on-again, off-again since then. It started with a refusal by rebels to abandon a strategic base near a hydropower plant — a joint venture agreement between Myanmar and Chinese companies.

At times, the government has resorted to bombardment, uprooting an estimated 120,000 people, many of them now living in dirty, crowded displacement camps.

This month's unrest has forced hundreds to flee the camps and their homes, aid groups say.