YANGON, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The Myanmar government forces, using air strikes, captured five more strategic hilltops in continued heavy fighting with the Kokang ethnic army near Laukkai on Wednesday, the military-run media Myawaddy reported Thursday.
The fighting took place amid peace negotiations in Yangon between peace the Myanmar government and the country's ethnic armed groups.
The government troops drove away six groups of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) as the latter was attempting to launch attack on Laukkai, the capital of the Kokang region in northeastern Shan state.
The MNDAA was forced to withdraw to the east of the region, the report said.
During Wednesday's heavy clashes, 13 from the Myanmar military were killed with 28 others being wounded, while the MNDAA left three bodies and some small arms and ammunition, the report added.
On Tuesday, the government troops shelled other hilly bases of the Kokang ethnic army near Laukkai, forcing the MNDAA to retreat to the north and the northeast.
While the military columns are combing Laukkai area, engagements occurred with the MNDAA almost on a daily basis.
The Myanmar military also claimed that during its air strike against the Kokang ethnic army last week, it has captured a number of strategic hills in the heavy fighting.
Unconfirmed compiled statistics show that, as of now, the government side suffered 100 deaths with 246 wounded, while 104 bodies were seized from the MNDAA with 30 being arrested.
Meanwhile, the 7th round of peace talks between the the government's Union Peace-Making Work Committee (UPWC) and the 16 ethnic armed groups' Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) resumed in Yangon Tuesday, with the two sides agreeing to seek political ways for reducing conflict referring to the current fighting in Kokang region and Kachin state.
In its second day of the peace talks on Wednesday, NCCT members called for inclusion of the MNDAA in the talks as the MNDAA constitutes one of the NCCT members.
The talks, preliminarily set for six days, are focusing on eight remaining points out of 104 of the draft nationwide ceasefire accord left by the previous talks in a bid to push for its finalization.