BEIJING — China’s expressed concern on Tuesday about renewed fighting between ethnic rebels and Burmese government forces which forced civilians to cross the border to seek refuge in China.
The fighting flared up in the Kokang region of northeast Burma’s Shan State between rebels from a group called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the army.
“From yesterday until today, some Myanmar border residents, because of safety considerations, entered China. They have been looked after,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing, without giving a number.
The rebels were formerly part of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), a China-backed guerrilla force that battled the Burma government until the group fell apart in 1989.
Hua said China would pay close attention to how the situation developed and it would maintain peace and stability on the border.
“We also believe that the Myanmar side should work hard for this,” she added.
“We hope that relevant parties in northern Myanmar can resolve their differences via continuing to uphold peaceful talks and prevent the clashes from escalating and affecting border stability, especially from affecting security and order on the Chinese side.”
The MNDAA signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1989, the first of about a dozen factions that formed after the CPB disintegrated.
Despite such ceasefire agreements, clashes between government troops and guerrilla groups do break out from time to time.
The state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the fighting began on Monday between the army and “renegade troops of Kokang”.
“They took over a police outpost. There were some casualties on both sides,” a Burmese military officer based in the northeast told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“We’re planning to get it back after reinforcing our troops.”
In December, Burmese state media accused the group of killing seven soldiers and wounding 20. Fighting between the rebels and the army in 2009 pushed tens of thousands of refugees into southwestern China, angering the government in Beijing.
Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun in Rangoon.