Violence in Myanmar as rebel groups attack authorities in border region

At least 20,000 people from Myanmar have fled across the border to China after violence erupted between ethnic rebels and the security forces.

A hotel worker in the Chinese town of Nan San said many people from Myanmar were looking for a place to stay, and for food.

Rebels from the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched an attack early Monday against police and military posts, according to Suu Kyi's office.

On the Myanmar side of the border, some 300 people were waiting to be transferred to a camp for internally displaced people in the town of Chinshwehaw near Laukkai, said Saw Shwe Myint, an official from the Myanmar Red Cross in Laukkai. It came one day after MNDAA attacks in Laukkai-the administrative capital of the ethnic Kokang region of Shan State-left at least 10 dead.

China called for an immediate ceasefire between the two sides on Tuesday, urging them to resolve their differences through peaceful means.

Khu Oo Reh, leader of the UNFC delegation, said Friday that if Myanmar's powerful military agreed to their nine-point proposal, the rebel alliance would sign the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) - inked by the previous quasi-civilian government and eight out of the 15 groups invited.

"Out of humanitarian reasons we have provided necessary assistance to them and have taken effective measures to ensure order of the border areas", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

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The area is in northeastern Shan state, which has seen repeated bouts of heavy fighting between the army and a band of well-armed ethnic minority militias since November, undercutting a government peace bid.

"According to initial information, many innocent civilians including a primary school teacher. were killed because of attacks by the MNDAA armed group", the office of Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said in a statement.

The military said it recovered 20 charred bodies it says belonged to fallen insurgents.

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

An army source told AFP fighting was continuing as darkness fell. "We do not know exact figures yet", the officer said.

The statement disclosed that the government and military have offered the MNDAA, Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA) to be allowed to directly participate in political dialogues without the prerequisite of signing the NCA if the groups release an announcement to abandon armed struggle.

  • Douglas Reid