Monday, 20 January 2020

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Nearly 30,000 civilians flee conflicts in Northeastern Burma: UN

New Delhi (Mizzima) – As many as 30,000 civilians have fled to China in the wake of fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels in Burma’s north-eastern region, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.  

“Our information is that as many as 30,000 people may have taken shelter in Nansan County since August 8, saying they were fleeing fighting between Myanmar [Burma] government troops and ethnic minority groups,” Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR spokesperson said at the press briefing, on Friday in Geneva.

Mahecic said the UNHCR is “liaising with the authorities to investigate what their needs are,” and expressed appreciation of China for not sending away the refugees as a respect to the non-refoulement principle.

“We have been informed that local authorities in Yunnan Province have already provided emergency shelter, food and medical care to the refugees,” Mahecic said.

As thousands continued crossing the Sino-Burma border on Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement posted on its website said China hopes that “Myanmar [Burma] can appropriately solve its relevant internal problems and safeguard the stability of the China-Myanmar border."

“We also urge Myanmar [Burma] to protect the safety and legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar [Burma]," said spokeswoman Jiang Yu in the statement.

On Friday skirmishes continued in at least three places including in Lao Kai, capital of the Kokang region.  

Tension between the two sides, building up since early August sparked a conflict on Thursday and violated 20 years of ceasefire agreement.  

According to Sein Kyi, Editor of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), the conflict is likely to mount further and even spread to full-fledged civil war, as the Kokang group, is now joined by its allies – the United Wa State Army – another ethnic armed group.

Trouble between the Kokang, also known as the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the junta began to snowball when the latter in early August began moving in more troops on the pretext of a drug eradication programme.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst based at the Sino-Burma border, said the ruling junta is disappointed with the cease-fired group following its refusal to accept the junta’s proposal to transform their army into a border guard force.

The tension escalated on August 8 and on August 23 when the residence of Kokang’s supreme leader Peng Jiasheng was raided in searching of illicit drugs and weapons. However, Peng evaded both the raids.

The junta then issued an arrest warrant for Peng and the  military occupied Peng’s former headquarters of Loa Kai.  

“Now Peng and his troops are in the jungles ,” said Sein Kyi.

The MNDAA, UWSA, Mongla or Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in mid-August formed an alliance dubbed the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front (MPDF).


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