Military Blames Kokang Rebels for Artillery Fire in China

By Lawi Weng & Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 18 May 2015

RANGOON — The head of Burma’s Armed Forces has blamed Kokang insurgents for artillery fire that landed across the Chinese border and wounded five people in a Yunnan province village last week.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had earlier condemned the Burma Army over the May 14 incident, during which a Chinese citizen and four Burmese nationals were injured after the shells exploded near a hotel in the town of Zhenkang at around 8:30pm local time. A further four shells were reported to have landed on Chinese soil the following day.

On Monday morning, the government said an investigation into the responsible party was still underway.

“We still have an ongoing investigation,” presidential advisor Ye Htut told reporters at a press conference today. “We need to find whether these artillery shells were from the Burma Armed Forces or Kokang insurgents. In any case like this, we need to investigate before assigning blame.”

Later on Monday, the military’s Myawady online news portal reported a Naypyidaw meeting between Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and a delegation led by Yang Houlan, the Chinese ambassador. The commander-in-chief reportedly told the group that the artillery shells did not originate from the Burma Army, and were likely to have been fired by Kokang soldiers with the intention of damaging the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The artillery attack came during an engagement between the Burma Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), an ethnic Kokang armed group that has been fighting government forces since early February.

In April, the Burmese government formally apologized to Beijing after the accidental March 13 bombing of a sugar cane field that killed five Chinese civilians. Unconfirmed reports stated that the government paid more than US$10,000 in compensation for each of the deaths.

A statement issued by the Burma Army on May 15 vowed to eradicate MNDAA forces from around the border area, and said that most of the insurgent army’s strategic mountain posts had been seized in government offensives.