The government in Myanmar, also known as Burma, Tuesday declared a state of emergency and imposed a 90-day period of martial law in eastern Shan state. The announcement was made by President Thein Sein in a televised address following clashes between the army and ethnic minority rebels in the Kokang region of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
The announcement follows the ambush of a Red Cross convoy that wounded two people. The government says at least 50 soldiers and 26 rebels have been killed since the flareup February 9th.
China says tens of thousands of mostly ethnic Han Chinese residents have fled across the border into Yunnan province prompting Beijing to step up border controls and call for prevention of an escalation of the situation.
The violence comes as the Myanmar government, which has undertaken a series of reforms since 2011, is trying to work out a nationwide peace agreement with various ethnic groups ahead of elections scheduled for later this year.
Maung Zarni is a Burmese analyst with lecturer at Boston's Harvard Medical School. He tells VOA's Victor Beattie it would appear the military is stoking tensions in a bid to remain in control:
Maung Zarni says he is concerned the military may also be raising tensions in a bid to create instability whereby national elections would have to be delayed or cancelled if it perceives its chief rival, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy would win. Burmese authorities annulled the 1990 election won by the NLD.