China Says More Than 20,000 from Burma Seek Refuge Across Border

By Reuters 9 March 2017

BEIJING — More than 20,000 people from northern Shan State have flooded into border camps in neighboring China, seeking refuge from bitter fighting between ethnic groups and security forces, China said on Thursday.

Thousands of people have crossed China’s border in recent months to escape the conflict, which threatens Burma leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s top goal of reaching peace with minorities.

This week, about 30 people were killed in an attack by ethnic Chinese insurgents in Laukkai, a town 800 kilometers (500 miles) northeast of Burma’s commercial hub Rangoon.

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

He reiterated a call for all sides involved to “exercise restraint and immediately cease fire” to keep clashes from escalating.

“China supports Myanmar’s peace process and hopes all sides can use peaceful means to resolve their differences via dialogue and consultation,” Geng told a regular news briefing.

Stray shells and bullets had fallen into China territory, injuring one Chinese person living there and causing some other damage, he added, but did not elaborate.

The attack came after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met a delegation of ethnic armed groups last week to convince them to take part in a major peace conference.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi swept to power in 2015 on promises of national reconciliation and the meeting was aimed at giving fresh impetus to the stuttering peace process.

In this week’s attack, fighters of the predominantly ethnic Chinese Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched a pre-dawn raid on police, military and government sites in Laukkai, the capital of the northeastern Kokang region.

MNDAA is a part of the Northern Alliance coalition of rebel groups comprising one of Burma’s most powerful militias, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and two smaller groups caught in a standoff with the military since 2015 clashes in the region.

Many died and tens of thousands fled during that fighting, which also spilled into China and led to the death of five of its people, angering Beijing.