China Warns Burma Over Fighting

Clashes escalate between Burma's military and ethnic minority armies.
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Kachin refugees flee to Burma's border with China to escape the fighting, June 14, 2011.
Kachin refugees flee to Burma's border with China to escape the fighting, June 14, 2011.
US Campaign for Burma

China has called on the Burmese military government to avoid escalating recent fighting in Kachin, where it has a number of hydropower projects, as rebel forces in the region called on Beijing to mediate a settlement.

Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei also denied reports from overseas rights groups that China had closed its border to an estimated 10,000 refugees fleeing the fighting.

"We are closely following the situation on the border between China and Burma and call on the parties in conflict to remain calm and exercise restraint so as to avoid an escalation of the situation," Hong told a news conference in Beijing.

"We urge them to resolve their differences through peaceful negotiations."

He said China was providing assistance to Kachin refugees where needed.

"Since the outbreak of the conflict, some people on the border came to China to find their relatives and friends," Hong said. "China has provided necessary assistance in accordance with standard practice."

Thousands displaced


News reports linked to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said on Wednesday that around 10,000 refugees had been displaced by the fighting.

The U.S. Campaign for Burma said the people were fleeing advancing government troops for fear of being press-ganged into service as porters or otherwise mistreated.

"Based on reports received from the battlefront, more than 20 Burmese government troops and around 10 Kachin rebel fighters have died in the fighting so far, " Aung Din, executive director for the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a dissident group in Washington, said in an interview.

"We are hearing that nearly 100 Burmese military personnel have been hospitalized in the Bhamo town and the Kachin capital Myitkyina, where the headquarters of the Burmese northern military command is located," Aung Din said.

The fighting began with a Burmese government offensive near a large hydropower project being built in northern Kachin state to provide power to China.

The KIA has called on Beijing to help broker a settlement with the government.

"Without the involvement of another country as a witness, as a facilitator... there is no solution," KIA press spokesman Henry Branglai was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

He said during the fighting thousands of people had crossed the border into China and were being allowed to move back and forth along the frontier.

Clashes spread

The clashes have spread in recent days, prompting rebel forces to blow up bridges built by the Burmese government to halt the advance of government forces, which rights groups accuse of carrying out a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in ethnic minority areas involving the rape, torture, and murder of villagers.

Overseas rights groups and the KNG said the government launched the first attack on KIA troops on June 9.

"Both sides have reinforced their troops with additional forces and severe fighting is expected to continue, not only in Kachin State, but also in other ethnic states," the group warned in a statement on its website Wednesday.

One of the largest ethnic armies in Burma which has signed ceasefire agreements with Burma, the KIA is believed to number around 10,000 troops, although it has largely avoided conflict with the ruling military junta since signing a ceasefire agreement in 1994.

The Kachin people are mostly Baptists and Catholics in a Buddhist country, and make up around seven percent of Burma's population.

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar [Burma] Caucus (AIPMC), a group of lawmakers in Southeast Asia, effectively blamed the Burmese government for the outbreak of fighting, which ended 17 years of ceasefire between the authorities and the KIA.

The AIPMC "strongly condemns" the decision by the Burmese government "to dispatch heavily armed troops into Kachin State and the concomitant outbreak of fighting," a statement from the group said.

"We call for an immediate end to sending troops into Kachin areas and urgent peace talks between the parties," said Eva Kusuma Sundari, president of the AIPMC.

"The war in Kachin State demonstrates that the new Myanmar government, elected in a sham election in November 2010, has not changed its ways and will continue to rule by force rather than seek a power-sharing agreement with ethnic nationalities," the statement said.

It said that following the fighting, almost 1,000 people have already reached the Kachin town of Mai Jay Yang along the Kachin-China border, while another 150 people who moved into China were forced to return.

"Many others had their cell phones confiscated by Chinese police," the statement said.

AIPMC called on China to stop "these forced repatriations" and to provide protection to Kachin refugees fleeing fighting.

It also wanted the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international bodies to be granted access to the border areas of China and Burma for the protection of civilians and humanitarian relief.

Fighting in Burma's Kokang state in August 2009 drove thousands into refugee camps in China, earning the military regime a public reprimand from long-time ally Beijing.

Reported by Radio Free Asia's Burmese Service. Written in English with additional reporting by Luisetta Mudie and Parameswaran Ponnudurai.





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