Beijing said on Monday it had allowed civilians fleeing renewed fighting in northern Myanmar near China to cross the border, even as it urged both sides of the conflict between ethnic groups and government troops to cease hostilities.
Eight people were killed and 29 wounded when a coalition of rebels attacked military and police outposts and a business centre, on the weekend the Myanmese government said.
Chinese authorities confirmed that a Chinese citizen living along the border in Yunnan (雲南) province was wounded by a stray bullet, and they had lodged representations with Myanmar.
Mainland media reported yesterday that a refugee shelter in the frontier town of Wanding had taken in 1,100 people who had crossed the border, with another centre in Menghai receiving about 2,000 people.
One of the Myanmese said he went to the Wanding shelter after the fighting erupted early on Sunday, and did not dare to go back home, news portal Thepaper.cn reported.
“Our village chief arranged cars to take us to China,” he was quoted as saying. “Now there is no one at home taking care of my cows and sheep, and only a few people remain in the village.”
The three ethnic groups behind the latest fighting are the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
Posts backing and raising cash for the MNDAA are circulating freely on social media platforms on the mainland.
The Chinese embassy in Yangon said on Sunday it was watching the situation closely and advised Chinese citizens o avoid the conflict zone.
The embassy said some Myanmese residents in the border area fled to Chinese territory to escape the fighting. For humanitarian reasons, the Chinese government accepted those who crossed the border and sent any wounded to hospitals, it said.
Since taking office in April, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and her administration have made the peace process a top priority.
The 21st Century Panglong conference, initiated by Suu Kyi in an attempt to end the ethnic violence, ended in Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, about seven weeks ago. The conference gathered leaders of all the parties to the conflict.
But the outbreak of fighting on Sunday dashed hopes raised at the conference.
Several groups have negotiated peace deals at times, but the civil war has raged for decades in Myanmar’s mountain and border regions.
The armed ethnic groups seek greater autonomy from a central government that is dominated by the Bamar – the country’s main ethnic group.