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A convoy of Red Cross vehicles has been attacked in the Kokang Self-Administrated Zone in northern Shan State – the second such attack in the area in less than one week.
The convoy of vehicles was transporting people displaced from Laogai [also written Laukkai] when it was shot at on 21 February.
The area has recently seen heavy fighting between government forces and ethnic groups being led by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), but it can not be confirmed who was responsible for this assault.
A journalist, a Red Cross worker and at least two other people were injured in Saturday’s incident. The injuries sustained were non-serious and being treated at nearby Kunlong hospital, according to a DVB reporter at the scene.
The Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) released a statement on Sunday, confirming the attack took place.
In the statement, Prof. Dr Tha Hla Shwe, the president of MRCS, said that this second attack represents “an unacceptable thing that they did to Red Cross humanitarians, journalists, and civilians.”
“Access and safety of Red Cross volunteers need to be guaranteed and protected to continue saving lives,” he added.
The attack happened in the same area where last week’s ambush occurred, in which a Red Cross convoy carrying volunteers, refugees and journalists came under fire. One person received an injury to the eye, while one was shot in the stomach. The two injured people also received treatment at Kunlong hospital.
The assailants in the 17 February attack were unconfirmed, though unsubstantiated claims of ethnic rebel culpability have been repeated in many media sources, forcing the MNDAA to deny responsibility.
Saturday also saw more violence in the Kokang area, with one officer and three soldiers of the Burmese army killed in fighting that took place between the towns of Hseinni and Kunlong.
During a press conference in Naypyidaw on February 21, officials of the Burmese army claimed that former soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army are fighting alongside the MNDAA.
In the press conference, the military also reported that in the Laogai violence, the MNDAA were being supported by the United Wa Solidarity Army, Kachin Independence Army, Ta-ang National Liberation Army and Shan State Army – North.
President Thein Sein on 17 February signed into effect a 90-day state of emergency in the Kokang area, and conferred executive and judicial powers to the commander-in-chief of the Defence Services to “bring back normalcy” to the region, effectively instigating martial law.
Last week’s attack on the humanitarian mission garnered widespread criticism from observers, with the US Embassy in Rangoon saying that attacks on humanitarian staff were “unacceptable”, and calling on all parties to allow the safe passage and protection of humanitarian staff and civilians in the conflict area.
Concern has also been voiced about the reports of thousands of people who have been displaced by the recent violence in the region. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled Laogai and are now mostly being sheltered in Nansan on the Chinese side of the border, as well as the Shan town of Lashio.