Food, Shelter Running Out For 100,000 Kokang Refugees in China's Yunnan

myanmar-kokang-rebels-laukkai-feb16-2015.jpg Myanmar soldiers patrol Laukkai in the Kokang region of northern Myanmar's Shan state, Feb. 16, 2015.

An estimated 100,000 refugees have poured across the border into neighboring China after renewed fighting between Myanmar government troops and rebel fighters in the Kokang region in the north of the country, a Red Cross employee said on Thursday.

The fighting erupted Feb. 9 in Laukkai, capital of the special region of Kokang near Myanmar's border with China, between army troops and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces.

Tens of thousands of civilians have already fled the remote and rugged area of northeastern Shan State over the last 10 days, sparking calls from aid workers for a cease-fire to allow the evacuation of civilians.

The MNDAA under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng are trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone, which it had controlled until 2009.

An employee who answered the phone at the Chinese Red Cross across the border in neighboring Yunnan province said more than 100,000 refugees had crossed the border into China since the clashes began.

"There has been fighting between Myanmar government troops and the Kokang alliance, and we have seen a growing number of refugees on this side of the border," she said.

"There are already more than 100,000 refugees in Zhenkang county," she said. "The Kokang refugees are flooding over here."

"They are all in Lincang city and Zhenkang county."

She said supplies are now running low. "We are short of food and accommodation for them," she said.

Call to 'cooperate'

Official Chinese media have reported the number of refugees crossing the border at 30,000 in the past week.

The Chinese government says it has stepped up border controls, and that it is providing relief operations for refugees.

Yangon on Thursday called on Beijing to cooperate with Myanmar to prevent "terrorist attacks" being launched from Chinese territory.

"It is necessary to cooperate ... on the understanding that terrorist attacks on Myanmar are not allowed from Chinese territory," Myanmar presidential aide Hmuu Zaw said in a Facebook post.

More specifically, Myanmar wants China to detain Peng if he is found on its side of the border.

"The border stability and security that China is worried about would be restored immediately if Peng Jiasheng and accomplices were detained and transferred to the Myanmar government if they happened to be China," he said.

Beijing has urged both sides to "exercise restraint" to maintain stability in the border region.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that China "will not allow any organization or individual to carry out activities undermining China-Myanmar relations ... [from] within Chinese territory."

A new attempt

The MNDAA was formed from former members of a Beijing-backed guerilla force known as the Communist Party of Burma, which disbanded in 1989.

Peng left the region during a government push into the territory in 2009, which also saw floods of refugees move into Yunnan province, and his return has spearheaded a new attempt to retake territory he previously held.

The government-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the MNDAA has been joined by three other ethnic minority armies: the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and part of the Shan State Army.

A KIA official effectively confirmed his group's involvement in the clashes, which have left at least 50 government soldiers and 27 rebels dead, according to official media reports.

"There have been deaths and injuries on both sides," a former vice-minister for health care told RFA.

"The government troops have sustained more casualties, as they attacked us," said the official, who gave only a single name, Pai.

"Some of the village hospitals are full of injured people," he said. "In the past week, there have been more than 100 injuries."

"The government forces have had rather more than we have," he added.

He said pro-Chinese sentiment appeared to be on the rise among local people.

"Refugees are trying to get back to their home villages, and now we are seeing things like people in Kokang flying Chinese national flags from their vehicles," Pai said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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