Myanmar's government says its troops have occupied more than 20 strategic positions held by ethnic Kokang rebels in two months of fierce fighting near the border with China, but a spokesman for the insurgents denies the claim.

The state-run Kyemon daily reported Tuesday that government troops using artillery and tanks have taken the positions since Feb. 9, when fighting broke out, leaving more than 100 government soldiers dead and driving thousands of civilians seeking safety into China.

Kokang spokesman Htun Myat Lin agreed that the government used artillery and tanks, but denied his forces had lost so many strategic positions.

President Thein Sein's government is striving to strike a peace agreement with about a dozen ethnic insurgent groups aimed at ending decades of armed rebellion.