Thousands flee embattled Myanmar-China border

Mar 10, 2017, 00:39
Thousands flee embattled Myanmar-China border

More than 20,000 people from Myanmar have flooded into border camps in neighbouring China, seeking refuge from bitter fighting between ethnic groups and security forces in the country's north, China said on Thursday.

Some 36 families displaced from fighting in Laukkai arrive in a Buddhist monastery in Lashio Township, Shan State.

On Monday, at least 30 people were killed in an attack by ethnic Chinese fighters in Laukkai, the capital of Myanmar's region of Kokang, about 800km northeast of the commercial hub Yangon.

"I want to urge everyone to abandon the armed attacks that cause death and destruction for local ethnic groups and return to the peace table and join the peace journey that all ethnic citizens have been longing for", the statement said.

Fierce gun battles, artillery strikes and fires rocked the town, prompting thousands to flee south or over the border into China.

Witnesses at a town in restive Kokang region described how the clashes created chaos and created panic among the residents. China urged both the parties to resolve their disputes through dialogue and consultations.

China is providing humanitarian assistance while taking steps to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border region, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

The violence threatens the goal of Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to reach peace with minorities.

The 42-year-old owner of the Fuyuan Hotel, who identified himself by his surname Yang, said: "All we can do is to help them and give them food".

The Northern Alliance, a coalition of rebel groups including the MNDAA and the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA), confirmed its participation on Facebook, where it claimed to launch the the attack "to resist an enemy offensive in self-defense".

The area is in northeastern Shan state, which has seen repeated bouts of heavy fighting between the army and a band of well-armed ethnic minority militias since November, undercutting a government peace bid.

"Most people have left Laukkai town", a military officer requesting anonymity told AFP on Wednesday, adding fighting was continuing in surrounding areas.

The attack came after the Nobel Peace Prize victor met a delegation of ethnic armed groups last week to convince them to participate in a major peace conference.

Kokang has close ties to China, with locals speaking a Chinese dialect and using the yuan as currency.

The military said it recovered 20 charred bodies it says belonged to fallen insurgents.

"Since the outbreak of the conflict, some Myanmar residents living in the border areas have crossed over to the Chinese side for safety reasons".