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Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing has denied accusations that the artillery shells that landed on Chinese territory on 14 and 15 May were fired by Burmese government forces.
State media reported on Tuesday that on receiving Chinese Ambassador Yang Houlan in Naypyidaw, Burma’s military chief illustrated the conflict zone with a map, outlining the positions of Burmese troops and units of the Kokang rebels in the far northeast of Shan State.
The Burmese army has, over the past week, intensified its attacks on Kokang positions on top of the Nan Tien Men hills, which lie close to the Sino-Burmese border.
Min Aung Hlaing told Ambassador Yang that the 40 artillery shells that landed across the border in Lincang on the night of 14 May and the morning of 15 May had been fired from Point 2071, a hill held by Kokang units of the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). Min Aung Hlaing also said that Burmese army personnel had informed the Chinese military relations officer in Lincang of this fact.
The senior general said that the Burmese army was “not involved”, yet agreed that the incident should be investigated, reported the Global New Light of Myanmar (GNLM).
The Chinese ambassador is quoted as saying that “the Chinese government wants to avoid border tensions between the two countries, and that MNDAA forces are disturbing the two neighbouring countries”.
GNLM also reported that Min Aung Hlaing urged Beijing not to allow safe passage on Chinese soil to MNDAA troops.
The meeting was attended by Burma’s Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Snr-Gen Soe Win and other senior military officials.
Five civilians were injured – two seriously – when errant shells from the Burmese side of the border hit the densely populated neighbourhood of Wen Min Xin in Nansan on 14 May.
While it remains uncertain whether the Burmese or Kokang armies were responsible for the stray shells, it is known that Burmese units pounded Kokang positions on hilltops overlooking Laogai with artillery assaults on 14 and 15 May, attacks that the military touted proudly on national TV and in other media outlets.
The following day, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Hua Chunying said Beijing “expresses strong dissatisfaction” over the incident.
Asked by a DVB reporter on Friday about the Nansan shelling incident, Minister of Information Ye Htut appeared to lay the blame on Chinese elements.
“We don’t know whether it [artillery fire] is coming from the [Burmese] military or whether it is coming from the Kokang. Before we make a thorough inspection of the site, we cannot make a comment on this issue,” he said.
“The best thing to prevent this sort of incident is to prevent fighting in the border area. You have to ask the question, ‘How did this insurgent group [get] supplied? From where?’
“Beijing says they respect our territory. But there’s a lot of illegal operations across the border, even though the Chinese government doesn’t support this kind of [activity]. There are some individual elements, and it is a long border, with a lot of mountainous areas, and there are very few border control [posts] on both sides.”
The conflict between the MNDAA and Burmese government forces in the Kokang self-administrated region broke out on 9 February. In the meantime, Naypyidaw has refused to allow the MNDAA to be represented at ongoing ceasefire talks.