Chinese, Burmese Officials Meet to Defuse Kokang Tensions

By Sean Gleeson 9 March 2015

RANGOON — Bilateral meetings have been held over the weekend in both China and Burma aimed at reducing tensions over the ongoing Kokang conflict, state media reported on Monday.

According to the Global New Light of Myanmar, officials from the foreign ministries of both nations met in the Shan State border town of Muse on Sunday to discuss “restoring law and order in the border area, and for the earliest and safe return of people who are temporarily taking shelters [sic] in China….”

Meanwhile, a delegation of the Myanmar-China Friendship Association traveled to Beijing to meet with Liu Zhenmin, the Chinese vice-minister for foreign affairs, along with other officials from Mar. 3-8.

The Burmese delegation “expressed appreciation to [the] Chinese government for humanitarian assistance provided to people who temporarily came to China for security concern,” according to the Global New Light of Myanmar.

China has reportedly encouraged refugees from Laukkai, as many as 50,000 of whom have crossed the border into Yunnan province since the fighting broke out last month to return to their homes.

According to Kyaw Ni Naing, a lawmaker from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party representing Laukkai Township, Chinese authorities are concerned about straining relations between the two countries by continuing to host Kokang refugees.

Fighting in Laukkai broke out on Feb. 9 last month with a surprise assault on government troops, apparently precipitated by the return to the area of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) chief Peng Jiasheng, nearly six years after he was ousted during a Burma Army offensive.

In Burma, officials have speculated that China lent covert support to the Kokang insurgents, a suspicion which has in turn helped galvanize support for the military. Lt-Gen. Mya Tun Oo of the Burma Army’s Office of the Commander-in-Chief told a Naypyidaw press conference on Feb. 21 that “Chinese mercenaries” were fighting alongside Kokang rebels, an allegation promptly denied by China’s foreign ministry and state media outlets.

Last Friday, the South China Morning Post reported allegations that Maj-Gen Huang Xing, a former department head at the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, had leaked state secrets to the Kokang insurgents during the 2009 conflict. Huang Xing has been detained since Mar. 2 on unspecified corruption charges.

Laukkai remains under a martial law edict issued on Feb. 17. State media reported on Monday that the Burma Army had engaged Kokang insurgents over the weekend, taking strategic hilltops in order to prevent guerrillas from harassing road transport between Laukkai and the border town of Chin Shwe Haw.