Myanmar has said it is ending a military offensive against ethnic minority rebels in the northern state of Kachin in the face of growing international concern.
The statement from the information ministry on Friday came hours after the country’s parliament passed a motion calling for a halt to the fighting, which has marred optimism about the country’s political reforms.
“The commander in chief reaffirmed that the Tatmadaw (military) will follow the command of the president not to carry out offensive attacks except in self-defence,” the statement said.
“But in an armed conflict, both sides need to halt attacks to cool tensions,” it added.
The conflict between the government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) had escalated recently with the use of air strikes by the military, prompting the United States and the UN to voice concern.
The exact number of casualties is unknown, but the government said on Friday that 35 soldiers had been killed and 190 injured in a series of ambushes by the rebels since 2011, in the first official death toll for the military’s side.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the state since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down.
Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government has reached tentative ceasefires with a number of major ethnic rebel groups since taking power in early 2011, but several rounds of talks with Kachin rebels have shown little progress.
President Thein Sein’s reformist government said a year ago it had ordered the military to halt offensives against ethnic minority rebels, but the Kachin conflict continued, raising doubts about his control over the armed forces.
The government has described the recent strikes against the KIA to regain control of a strategically important hill in the area of La Gyar Yang.