Ethnic Kokang rebels fighting against government troops in northeastern Myanmar have declared a unilateral ceasefire.

Kokang spokesman Htun Myat Lin told the Associated Press the ceasefire began Thursday morning.

Htun Myat says rebels made the declaration in response to an appeal by China for peace along the border region and to ensure that elections expected in Myanmar later this year are peaceful in the area.

Clashes between the Kokang rebels and government troops have left hundreds of people dead since February.

The clashes have come as the nominally civilian government is making efforts to sign a nationwide cease-fire with more than a dozen rebel groups that have been fighting for self-rule for decades.