Mon, May 14, 2018 - Page 4 News List

China urges ceasefire after clashes in Myanmar

AFP, YANGON, Myanmar

China yesterday condemned fighting on its border between Myanmar forces and ethnic rebels that has left 19 dead, mostly civilians, in some of the worst violence to rattle the restive frontier in recent years.

The fighting erupted on Saturday when ethnic-minority insurgent groups, who are locked in a long-running battle with the government of Myanmar, attacked security posts around Muse, a border town and trade hub in northeastern Shan state.

A local resident said she heard gunfire through the night until early yesterday morning, with fear gripping a town that lives at the mercy of both government militias and ethnic armies fighting for more autonomy.

“We heard shooting the whole night until this morning around 6am. We do not know what was going on and who was fighting,” Muse resident Aye Aye said.

Saturday’s carnage, which also left at least 27 wounded, was one of the bloodiest days in recent years of a conflict that has hampered Burmese State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi’s attempts to forge nationwide peace.

Observers believe Beijing holds significant sway over the ethnic rebels near its border and is a key player in Aung San Suu Kyi’s faltering peace process.

The Chinese embassy in Yangon yesterday condemned the clashes and said it had urged “relevant parties” to reach an immediate ceasefire.

The violence “made people from the Myanmar side flee across the Chinese border, and stray bullets have entered into Chinese territory,” the statement added.

Saturday’s attacks were blamed on the Kachin Independence Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which has claimed responsibility for operation and apologized for the civilian deaths.

A TNLA spokesman told reporters that its forces targeted a casino run by army-linked militias outside Muse.

Knut Ostby, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, expressed concern over the civilian deaths in Muse and called for swift aid deliveries to those affected.

“The UN encourages all parties to redouble their efforts to advance the Peace Process,” he said in a statement.

Aung San Suu Kyi lacks control over security policy and the nation’s still-powerful military, which has retained key government posts in a delicate power-sharing arrangement with her National League for Democracy.

On Saturday an anti-war protest in Yangon was broken up by riot police, who detained at least nine demonstrators.

Rights groups condemned the heavy-handed response.

“It is outrageous that the local government and police chose to confront peaceful anti-war protesters with riot shields, violence and arrests,” said David Baulk, a specialist on Myanmar with Fortify Rights, a non-profit human rights group based in Southeast Asia.

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