Second Red Cross Convoy Attacked in Kokang

By The Irrawaddy 22 February 2015

RANGOON — Five people including one journalist were injured Saturday during a second ambush on a Red Cross vehicle in less than a week in northeast Burma’s troubled Kokang region, according to state-run daily The Mirror.

The attack near Chin Shwe Haw along the Sino-Burmese border followed a similar incident on Tuesday, when two Red Cross volunteers were injured in an ambush by unknown assailants.

The newspaper reported on Sunday that a truck visibly bearing the Red Cross insignia was attacked by Kokang rebels on the way back to Chin Shwe Haw from Laukkai on Saturday afternoon. The truck was carrying 13 people including Red Cross workers, internally displaced persons and journalists, according to the Myanmar Red Cross Society, which confirmed the ambush in a Facebook post on Sunday.

During the attack, one Red Cross official and a journalist from the government-affiliated Myanmar Radio and Television-4 were wounded, along with three others believed to be migrant workers from Upper Burma. All of the victims sustained minor injuries and were admitted to Kunlong General Hospital in Shan State, about 30 miles southwest of Laukkai.

During a press conference on the same day in Naypyidaw, Lt-Gen Mya Tun Oo of the Burma Army’s Office of the Commander-in-Chief said Kokang rebels fighting under the banner of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) were using Chinese mercenaries, along with soldiers from other ethnic armed rebel groups in Burma.

“Chinese mercenaries are involved in Kokang troops’ [offensive],” he said.

He described the mercenaries as largely from Sichuan province in China, where they had fled drug charges or were jobless.

“In this case, the Chinese central government is very unlikely to be involved, but some authorities from autonomous regions [in China] might be involved. So we have officially informed the Chinese government and they promised us a solution,” Mya Tun Oo said.

He added that Peng Jiasheng was commanding the MNDAA from a hotel in China and claimed that wounded Kokang rebel troops had been admitted to a Chinese hospital, showing pictures of the hotel and hospital to media in Naypyidaw.

Reiterating a claim first made by the government on Wednesday, he said that apart from the Chinese mercenaries, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Shan State Army (Wanghai) and an unspecified “Mongla group” were contributing troops to the Kokang rebels’ cause.

Wanghai is the headquarters of the Shan State Army-North, which has denied involvement in the current hostilities, as have the UWSA and KIA.

As of Saturday, the Burma Army said it had lost 55 soldiers, including seven officers, while 72 Kokang rebels were killed in action.

Fighting in the Kokang Special Region, which began on Feb. 9, has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee, some into China and others southwest to Kunlong, Lashio and elsewhere. According to the government, the fighting was instigated by Peng Jiasheng’s MNDAA, which was driven from Laukkai in 2009 and is believed to have taken up residence in China.

The Irrawaddy’s reporter Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint contributed from Naypyidaw.