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The Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) has denied attacking a Red Cross convoy on the highway between Laogai [also written Laukkai] and Chinshwehaw on 17 February, claiming the road is under the control of Burmese government forces.
Speaking to DVB by telephone on Thursday, Tun Myat Linn, a spokesperson for the MNDAA, denied accusations that his side was responsible. “It was not us who attacked the convoy,” he said. “Laogai is currently under government control, as is the area between the town and Chinshwehaw – our troops were not in the area. We can’t even get close to there.”
Two medical volunteers were injured when the convoy of trucks escorting refugees from Laogai to Chinshwehaw came under small-arms fire on Tuesday.
An initial report by Burma’s Ministry of Information claimed the convoy was “ambushed by Kokang renegades”, a verdict that several media outlets propagated without substantiating.
7-Day Daily reported on Thursday: “The Kokang troops involved in the fighting in Laogai targeted a Red Cross convoy that was carrying civilians, leaving some injured.” However, no evidence for the accusation was presented.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Myanmar Red Cross said, “It remains unclear who was responsible for the incident, however the location of the incident was not proximate to Myanmar army units.”
DVB reporter Hkun Zaw Oo, who was sitting in the lead truck when the convoy came under attack, noted that in the district of Parsi, where the incident occurred, clashes had taken place in previous days between government forces and ethnic rebels headed by the MNDAA. “The Burmese army’s 128th Infantry Battalion subsequently took up positions in the surrounding hills,” he wrote.
Video by Hkun Zaw Oo and other photojournalists who were with the convoy strongly suggests the hail of bullets came from the surrounding hillside. However no troop sightings or forensic evidence were reported.