Myanmar's military government says it will never allow secession after ethnic Shan rebels declared independence, state-run newspapers reported Saturday.
A group of exiled Shan led by Sao Hkam Hpa, the eldest son of the country's first president, declared independence on Monday for the country's Shan State, which borders Thailand in eastern Myanmar. Hkam Hpa lives in Canada.
"The government will safeguard sovereignty and non-disintegration of the country, and will never permit any part of the country to be seceded," Information Minister Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan was quoted as saying by the Myanma Ahlin newspaper.
"The futile attempt to disintegrate the Union of Myanmar is not accepted by other ethnic groups," including those that have signed cease-fire agreements with the government, he said.
On Wednesday, the junta declared Hkam Hpa's group illegal, saying people who help it will face up to five years in prison.
Sao Shwe Thaike, a Shan, was the country's first president after it gained independence from Britain in 1948. He handed over the presidency in 1952 and was arrested a decade later when the late dictator General Ne Win took power.
Sao Shwe Thaike died in prison. His family staged an unsuccessful rebellion against the government in 1963 from Thailand and later moved to Canada.
Myanmar is made up of seven states inhabited mostly by ethnic minorities. Seven other areas, called divisions, are home to the majority Myanmar people. Shan territory is the largest of the ethnic states in eastern Myanmar bordering China's Yunnan Province.