A group of 20 nationals from China were turned away by hundreds of angry villagers in northeastern Myanmar’s Shan state Friday after crossing the border and attempting to plant a flag declaring the area to be Chinese territory, according to a local ethnic party official.
Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) secretary Sai Tun Hle said the incident occurred when the Chinese nationals, including armed border guards, crossed into the area near Muse town from China’s Yunnan province and declared their intention to build a bridge across the Shweli (in Chinese, Ruili) river.
“They did not send any advance notice, they simply came over the border with several armed guards—around 20 in all,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“The villagers [from Muse] were concerned, so around 500 of them went to the area and rejected their demand.”
Sai Tun Hle said the matter had immediately been referred to authorities at the Shan state government level, who provided Muse authorities with a letter rejecting the claim.
When the Muse government administrator delivered the letter to the Chinese nationals, they left the area, he said.
Last year, villagers in the same area were angered when officials from both sides of the border jointly placed demarcation posts outlining the national boundaries, saying China had encroached on Myanmar territory.
Shan state officials later removed some of the posts, sources said.
The border dispute near Muse came as Myanmar acknowledged responsibility for a bomb mistakenly dropped in Yunnan province by its Air Force on March 13, killing five Chinese nationals, amid the ongoing conflict between government troops and ethnic rebels in Shan’s Kokang region.
Myanmar had initially blamed the bomb on the rebel Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), which denied responsibility.
China responded to the bombing by mobilizing jet fighters along the border, raising tensions.
On April 2, Myanmar’s Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Wunna Maung Lwin led a delegation to Beijing and met with Chinese Vice President Li Yuan Chao at the Great Hall of the People, where he apologized for the blunder, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported Friday.
“Wunna Maung Lwin expressed the apology of the Government and Armed Forces of Myanmar for the March 13 unfortunate incident in which 5 Chinese nationals were killed and 8 injured because of the stray bomb from a Myanmar Air Force aircraft that hit a sugarcane field” in Dashuisangshu village, the report said.
The delegation agreed to hold further discussions on “compensation for those who lost lives and [were] injured” and punish those responsible, it said, adding that the two sides would adopt measures to ensure that similar incidents would be avoided.
Zaw Htay, a spokesperson for Myanmar President Thein Sein’s office, on Friday confirmed that “Chinese people were killed because of the Myanmar Air Force bombing,” based on evidence presented by technical experts, and expressed sorrow for the incident.
“We have to solve this problem, as we have responsibility to do so,” he told RFA.
Criticism over compensation