China weighs in on Kokang unrest

China expressed concern on Tuesday after renewed fighting between Burma rebels and government forces which forced civilians to cross the border and seek refuge in China.

The fighting flared up in the Kokang region of northeast Burma’s Shan State between rebels from a group called the Burma National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the army.

“From yesterday until today, some Burma border residents, because of safety considerations, entered China. They have been looked after. China will continue to pay close attention to how the situation develops, keep up the relevant work, and maintain the peace and stability of the China-Burma border. We also believe that the Burma side should also work hard for this,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing, without giving a number.

The rebels were formerly part of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), a China-backed guerrilla force that battled the Burma government until the group fell apart in 1989.

Hua said China would pay close attention to how the situation developed and it would maintain peace and stability on the border.

“We hope that relevant parties in northern Burma can resolve their differences via continuing to uphold peaceful talks and prevent the clashes from escalating and affecting border stability, especially from affecting security and order on the Chinese side,” she added.

The MNDAA signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1989, the first of about a dozen factions that formed after the CPB disintegrated.

The MNDAA are party to the National Ceasefire Coordination Team, representing ethnic armed groups in the current, fractured, peace process.

The state-backed Global New Light of Burma newspaper said the fighting began on Monday between the army and “renegade troops of Kokang.”

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In December, Burma state media accused the group of killing seven soldiers and wounding 20. Fighting between the rebels and the army in 2009 pushed tens of thousands of refugees into southwestern China, angering the government in Beijing.

China maintains that it has a ‘no-involvement’ policy in Burma’s internal affairs. However Yunnanese officials are thought to keep close, if informal contact with a number of ethnic militias active along the border. Including the Kokang and the powerful Kachin Independence Organisation.

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