More Myanmar Refugees Seek Safety in China From Kokang Conflict

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myanmar-refugees-flee-fighting-laukkai-shan-mar6-2017.jpg Residents of Laukkai in Myanmar's northeastern Shan state flee their homes to escape fighting between Kokang insurgents and Myanmar army troops, March 6, 2017.

About 30,000 residents in northeastern Myanmar’s Laukkai township who have fled ongoing clashes between Kokang soldiers and the Myanmar military have sought shelter in a border area where the Chinese government has set up refugee camps, local residents said Monday.

“Fighting is still going on, and there are about 30,000 IDPs [internally displaced persons] staying around the China-Myanmar border area,” said a Myanmar Buddhist monk named Kaythaya who lives in China.

Shells dropped by the Myanmar army’s heavy weapons have been landing in southwest China’s Yunnan province, killing a Chinese teacher on March 11 and injuring three Myanmar men, he said. The teacher was the second Chinese man killed since fighting erupted.

The Chinese government is checking to determine what kind of weapons the army is using and how many shells have landed, he said.

China has asked its citizens who live about 2,000 feet from the border area to evacuate, Kaythaya said.

The clashes compelled the Myanmar government to impose a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in Laukkai and Gongyang townships in northeastern Shan state effective as of March 10.

About 2,000 residents of Laukkai have fled to relief camps in the nearby towns of Lashio, Thibaw, Namthu, Kutkai, and Muse, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

During the new clash that erupted on Monday, soldiers from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the formal name of the Kokang army, launched an offensive on Laukkai, resulting in dozens of casualties, including civilians, the report said.

Reprise of fighting

The fighting broke out early on March 6 when about 30 MNDAA soldiers attacked the Yanlone Kyine police station in Laukkai township in Myanmar’s Chinese-speaking Kokang region near the border with China.

The Kokang fighters also attacked military camps and civilian buildings and set cars ablaze.

Thirty people, including Myanmar security forces, Kokang insurgents, and civilians were reported dead the same day, with six others reported dead on March 7.

The breakout of the hostilities was in apparent retaliation for offensives launched by the government military in Kokang areas since last December.

Calls by the Chinese government for an immediate cease-fire and the restoration of order along the border area have been ignored.

Clashes involving the MNDAA and state soldiers occurred in the same area in early 2015 and 2009 and drove tens of thousands of residents across the border into China.

The renewed conflict comes as the Myanmar government prepares to hold a round of peace talks this month in its ongoing effort to end decades of civil wars between the government military and various ethnic armed groups.

Reported by Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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