Myanmar has evidence that Kokang rebels fighting government troops in weeks of deadly clashes in northeastern Shan State are getting arms, food and medical care from nearby China, the government spokesman said on Thursday
Minister of Information Ye Htut stopped short, however, of accusing China’s central government of supporting the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng. The conflict flared up on Feb. 9 and has killed more than 100 people and displaced tens of thousands of people.
“We believe the PRC government has policies to follow the Five Basic Principles for Peaceful Co-existence. However, we now have questions on how closely the local government and business circles in the border regions adhere to these policies,” Ye Htut told RFA’s Burmese service in an interview.
Peng's MNDAA, which is trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone that it had controlled until 2009, has denied receiving Chinese help and rejected earlier Myanmar government claims that Chinese mercenaries are fighting alongside rebel forces in Kokang.
But Ye Htut said “the evidence we had gotten proved that the arms supplies, their food rations, and treatment of their injured are not from Myanmar territory. So we wonder how much the regional-level authorities on their (China’s) side ‘control’ themselves.”
'Arms traders and drug smugglers'
Myanmar has been reaching out to China to share information and cooperate on the conflict, he said.
“It would be more accurate to say groups on the other side of the border rather than saying Chinese,” said Ye Htut. Shan State shares a long rugged border with China’s Yunnan province and a significant segment of people in Kokang are ethnic Chinese.
“We are going to feed them with necessary information and cooperate with them so they can stand correctly in accordance with their policies,” he added.
China denies having anything to do with the MNDAA or the current fight in Kokang.
Amid confusion and competing claims over casualties, Ye Htut said Myanmar’s army “only announces the statistics depending on the bodies they found and so is closer to reality” while MNDAA “would not admit high casualties to avoid bringing their morale down.”
Ye Htut reiterated Myanmar’s stance that it will not negotiate with the MNDAA and Peng, who published an open letter to President Thein Sein this week requesting talks.
“We have no reason to hold talks with criminals, murderers, arms traders and drug smugglers,” he told RFA.
Reported by Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Paul Eckert.