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Myanmar: Thousands flee to China after attack on army by a new armed struggle of Rohingya Muslims rebelling against decades of persecution.

Monday 13 March 2017, by siawi3

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/thousands-flee-china-mndaa-attack-army-170309184114805.html

March 9 2017

Thousands flee to China after MNDAA attack on army
China gives ’humanitarian assistance’ to Myanmar residents seeking refuge from clashes between army and rebel groups.

Myanmar is grappling with an alliance of ethnic rebel groups in the northwest [Reuters]

More than 20,000 people from northern Myanmar have fled to neighbouring China in recent months, seeking refuge from deadly fighting between ethnic groups and the army, according to government officials in Beijing.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said on Thursday that the Myanmar residents are being offered humanitarian assistance "to temporarily avoid the war".

The latest clashes are in Shan, a northeastern state which has seen repeated bouts of fighting between the army and ethnic minority groups since November, undercutting a government peace bid.

Slow progress to end Myanmar’s ethnic conflict

The violence threatens the goal of Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to reach peace with minorities.

On Monday, at least 30 people were killed in an attack by ethnic Chinese fighters in Laukkai, the capital of Myanmar’s region of Kokang, about 800km northeast of the commercial hub Yangon.

Fighters of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched a pre-dawn raid on police, military and government sites.

Late on Tuesday, the MNDAA said they had attacked Laukkai to protest "continued military pressure" on the Northern Alliance, a coalition of four ethnic minority armies which have yet to join national peace talks.

The rebels conceded in their statement that they have temporarily retreated due to the army pushback.

Many groups in the border region share close cultural ties with China, speaking Chinese dialects and using the country’s yuan currency.

"China supports Myanmar’s peace process and hopes all sides can use peaceful means to resolve their differences via dialogue and consultation," Geng said.

Stray shells and bullets had fallen into Chinese territory, wounding at least one person, he added.

In addition to grappling with an alliance of ethnic groups in the northwest, Suu Kyi’s nearly one-year-old government is also challenged by a new armed struggle by Rohingya Muslims rebelling against decades of persecution.

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Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/13/asia-pacific/relief-camp-china-swells-thousands-flee-conflict-myanmar/#.WMcAXhzRsU0

Photo: Refugees who fled fighting in neighboring Myanmar talk Saturday to a 96-year-old family member in the house of a relative in the village of Baiyan, near Nansan in Yunnan province, China. | REUTERS

Relief camp in China swells as thousands flee conflict in Myanmar

Reuters

Mar 13, 2017

NANSAN, CHINA – Within earshot of mortar fire echoing from beyond a ring of hills, a sprawling relief camp in southwestern China is swelling steadily after fighting erupted last week between a rebel ethnic army in Myanmar and government troops just across the border.

In a recent visit by reporters to the rugged area in southwestern Yunnan province, aid workers and those displaced expressed fears of a more violent and protracted conflict than a previous flare-up in the Kokang region in early 2015.

“Every day, more people come,” said Li Yinzhong, an aid manager in the camp, gesturing at the mostly Han Chinese refugees from Myanmar’s Kokang region trudging through the reddish mud earth around rows of large blue huts where they sleep on nylon tarpaulin sheets.

“We will look after them until they decide they want to go back.”

Blue disaster relief tents provided by the Chinese also dotted the terraced sugarcane, maize and tea terraces flanking the mountainous winding road to Nansan. The town, close to the Kokang region of Myanmar’s Shan state, is providing refuge for a stream of refugees that Chinese authorities estimate number more than 20,000.

The violence is a blow to efforts by Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, some of them in rebellions spanning decades.

The conflict is also fraying ties between China and Myanmar, which Beijing has hoped could be a key gateway in its multipronged “One Belt One Road” strategy to promote economic links between China and Europe.

Kokang has close ties to China. The vast majority are ethnic Chinese speaking a Chinese dialect and using the yuan as currency.

The Kokang began fleeing when the rebel Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched a surprise raid on Myanmar police and military targets in the town of Laukkai, resulting in the deaths of 30 people on March 6.

The Myanmar military has launched “56 waves of small and large clashes,” using cannons, armored vehicles and heavy weapons over the past two months, according to a statement published by the military March 6.

Rebel forces who lay historic claim to the Kokang region have attacked government troops with rocket-propelled grenades and other military hardware.

In an “urgent notice” posted Sunday on its official website, the MNDAA said the Kokang area is now in a “state of war” as fighting worsened.

On the Chinese side, paramilitary police have sent in battalions of reinforcements, mostly in readiness for disaster relief, according to Chinese officials who spoke on background.

Reporters saw seven Chinese armored personnel carriers moving west along the hilly road toward Myanmar and the relief camp sprawled across a muddy wasteland the size of 10 football fields.

The fresh unrest comes after fighting in early 2015 and in 2009 involving the MNDAA, both flare-ups displacing tens of thousands of people.

Ordnance has occasionally strayed into China, with five people in China killed in 2015 during a round of fighting then.

This time round, the door to a village house was blown out, and the upper floor of the Anran hotel in Nansan was shelled, forcing its closure, according to local residents and one official. Reuters was unable to corroborate these accounts.

China has lodged “solemn representations” with Myanmar over its citizens put at risk by the conflict, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing Monday.

“The Chinese will be very angry if it escalates to the level of 2015,” said Sino-Myanmar expert Yun Sun, a senior associate with the Stimson Center in Washington.

Beijing wants the Kokang to be included in the comprehensive peace negotiations that Suu Kyi initiated last August, she said.

The military has blocked that, saying the rebels can only join if they lay down their arms first.

“The Chinese actually tacitly and privately support the Kokang being included in the negotiations, but they can’t say that,” Sun said.

At around 3 a.m. on the day of the rebel raids, loud explosions and gunfire woke the Cao family, prompting them to flee at first light with few possessions.

“I was scared,” said Cao Junxiang, who fled in a convoy of four rudimentary, three-wheel farm lorries tethered to powerful motorcycles — joining a nearly 15-hour snaking exodus of jeeps, trucks, buses, carts and motorcycles bound for China.

“More than half the people (in my village) left,” he said, as others crowded around an open sitting area of a Chinese village house transformed into a makeshift refuge.

Yao Xiao’er, the 49-year old head of the household, said she sent the farm vehicles across the border soon after hearing the first bursts of distant thudding. She eventually got nearly 100 relatives and friends to safety, including a 2-year-old toddler and a nonagenarian, half-blind, family matriarch, who was dozing on an old sofa.

One young mother with a baby strapped to her back said many refugees were seeking out odd jobs to make ends meet.

“We have no money so some of us cut sugarcane,” she said. “We get around one yuan for every 20 sticks we chop, peel and uproot.”

A Chinese taxi driver plying the route between a Chinese airport in Lincang and the seedy frontier casinos of Myanmar’s Laukkai, said business was drying up. “No one is coming here anymore.”