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  • Children recycle goods from the ruins of a market which was set on fire at a Rohingya village outside Maugndaw in Rakhine state, Myanmar, Oct. 27, 2016.

    Children recycle goods from the ruins of a market which was set on fire at a Rohingya village outside Maugndaw in Rakhine state, Myanmar, Oct. 27, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 November 2016

Rebel groups say the government is fanning the flames of ethnic tensions within the country. 

Ethnic violence continues to spiral out of control in Myanmar, where anti-government forces attacked military positions on Sunday while the military has been accused of razing more than 1,200 houses in Rohingya Muslim villages.

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A rebel group made up of four ethnic groups attacked military and police positions near the country’s northern border with China in the Shan State. Eight people were killed including three police, three civilians, one soldier and one rebel, along with 29 wounded, Myanmar’s government said.

The government said the attack was carried out by the Kachin Independence Army or KIA, and a band of smaller anti-government groups such as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army or MNDAA, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army or TNLA, and the Arakan Army.

The 600-plus strong rebel coalition said that the Myanmar government is not interested in peace as it increasingly attacks ethnic minority groups. The Stan State is home to a number Chinese ethnic communities, and China said it was giving shelter to civilians fleeing the fighting across the border.

"The Chinese army is on high alert and will take the necessary measures to safeguard the country's sovereignty and safety, as well as protect the lives and property of Chinese citizens living along the border," said China’s Foreign Ministry.

Minority Rohingya Muslims living in the northwest Rakhine State have also been recently targeted by the military, where up to 30,000 people are believed to have been displaced with scores looking to flee across the Bangladesh border.

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The military increased its suppression in Rakhine following an October 9. Attacks on the military and police near the Bangladesh border, where Muslim “insurgent terrorists” were accused of the killings.

On Friday the military was accused of killing at least 86 within the area, with civilians reportedly shot while attempting to cross into Bangladesh. It comes amid accusations of rape and the torching of villages.

Satellite images of Rakhine state claim to show the destruction of 1,250 structures in Rohingya villages. The government, however, has downplayed the claims as an exaggeration by the ethnic groups and international media. So far at least 69 alleged insurgents and 17 government security forces have been killed in Rakhine according to officials.

The explosion of violence is seen as a huge challenge for the new government's wish to bring peace between ethnic groups after the country's Military Junta relinquished power of the country in 2011.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won an election landslide in 2015 on the back of reconciliation promises. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has been accused of not doing enough to stop the recent violence, particularly that directed at Muslims, as the government struggles to control the continued power of the military.

The Myanmar government still denies citizenship to Rohingya Muslims under a 1982 citizenship law. The 1.1 million Rohingya estimated to live the area are considered by many in Burma as Bangladeshi illegal immigrants.

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