China warns Burma on eviction

Sept 28, 2009 (DVB), Burma's decision to order all Chinese nationals to leave its northern Kokang region has been met with agitation by China, who issued a rare admonishment last week.

Up to 10,000 Chinese were told to return to China last week, with rumours that fresh fighting may break out between the Burmese army and a Kokang rebel group in Burma's northeastern Shan state.

China had earlier warned its citizens not to travel to the region, which was last month the scene of heavy fighting. Around 37,000 civilians fled across the border into China, although many have since returned.

Tension has been rising between the two countries since the fighting broke out, with China warning Burma in early September to "properly deal with its domestic issue to safeguard the regional stability in the China-Myanmar [Burma] border area".

Then last week the Chinese foreign ministry urged Burma to take "concrete action" to ensure the safety of its citizens in northern Burma, according to a statement on the ministry website.

Criticisms such as these are rare between the two countries. Burma relies on China for much of its political and economic support, and China has on several occasions used its power of veto in the UN Security Council to protect Burma.

China has ramped up investment in Burma, and recently began construction on a multi-billion dollar project to construct pipelines connecting Burma's vast offshore gas reserves to China's southern Yunnan province.

The pipelines will travel through the volatile Shan state, where outbreaks of violence are reportedly continuing.

An official from the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Burma's largest ceasefire group, based near the Kokang enclave, quoted a source as saying that the region "is not back to normal yet", despite government assertions that fighting had stopped.

According to the source, there is still confusion over the sharing of administrative power between the new Kokang administration, which came in after the fall of the rebel group, and government troops.

This, he said, was resulting in a number of small clashes breaking out along the border with China. Furthermore, looting of shops and houses is still rife in the Kokang capital, Laogai.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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