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Reuters (File photo) / Soldiers from the Shan State Army-South march in formation during a military parade celebrating the 69th Shan State National Day at Loi Tai Leng, the group's headquarters, on the Thai-Myanmar border February 7, 2016. Picture taken February 7, 2016
Thousands of people have been displaced in Myanmar’s northern Shan State amid continued fighting between ethnic rebels and government troops, the government said Monday, a day after it started with a deadly rebel attack on a major trading zone and security posts on the border with China.
Meanwhile, China put its forces on high alert and warned the warring parties not to do anything detrimental to its sovereignty and or endanger the life and properties of its border residents.
More than 2,600 villagers fled to Myanmar’s border town of Muse after hundreds of rebels attacked bridges, army posts, police stations and a trading facility in the early hours of Sunday, killing eight people, including three policemen and a soldier, and injuring 29 others, according to a Myanmar government statement.
It said the displaced villagers were being accommodated at five camps set up at religious buildings in Muse, which lies opposite the Chinese town of Ruili.
The rebel alliance issued statement Monday saying the attacks were carried out by a combined force of three armed groups active in the difficult mountainous terrain along the Myanmar-China border — the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta-ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.
The alliance, calling itself the “Northern Brotherhood, described the attacks as an “inevitable” response to the Myanmar army’s escalating offensive in ethnic minority territories of Kachin, Kokang, Ta’ang Arakan (Rakhine) and Shan, and urged people to avoid travelling in the area as fighting is likely to continue.
On Monday, the rebels launched further strikes in Muse district and nearby areas of northern Shan State, damaging a bridge and creating roadblocks on the highway connecting Muse, a bustling town crucial for Myanmar’s overland trade with China, with Mandalay, the country’s second largest city.
The rebels already damaged two bridges on the same highway during Sunday’s attacks.
On Monday evening, an aid worker was injured when two vehicles from a local social aid group were shot at by rebels while trying to evacuate civilians still trapped in Muse trading zone, another official press release said.
The fighting across the border has prompted China to heighten its vigilance, the Chinese Defense Ministry said Monday on its website.
“China’s military is keeping high alert and taking necessary measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and protect safety of lives and properties of the Chinese people inhabiting in the border area,” it said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters some stray bullets fell on the Chinese side of the border in Sunday’s fighting, and one Chinese border resident was hit in the arm.
“The Chinese side has lodged representations with the Myanmar side and taken measures to enhance border management and protect border residents and their properties,” Geng said.
He urged the conflicting parties to “exercise restraint, immediately halt relevant military operations so as not to heighten the tension, take concrete actions to restore peace in the border area and prevent anything that is detrimental to China’s sovereignty and life and properties of the border residents from happening.”
The latest fighting comes as a blow for the democratically elected civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi has been pushing ethnic rebel groups to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government in order to proceed with the ongoing peace process, which would eventually lead to the forming of a federal union.
However, the military in recent months has been stepping up its offensive against rebel groups.
Sunday’s incident also brought almost a complete halt to Myanmar’s overland trade with China, most of which passes through Muse, causing concern among farmers and traders.Source: Nikkei Asian Review