03/10/2017, 12.39
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Clashes between rebels and government forces: 20,000 civilians flee to China

Thousands receive Chinese humanitarian aid. New violence erupted on 6 March. At least 30 people were killed on the border between Myanmar and China following a surprise raid launched by the rebels. The intensification of the conflict has raised tensions between the two countries. The Chinese foreign minister: "Restore peace and stability at the border areas."


Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 20,000 people have fled from Myanmar through the border with China from violence that has erupted between the armed militias of ethnic minorities and the security forces. The Chinese foreign minister said that thousands have sought refuge in camps on the border and are now receiving humanitarian assistance.

For months clashes between groups of armed rebels and government forces are ongoing in various regions of the country. The violence this week is among the worst to have hit the Kokang region since 2015. The Kokang has close ties with China, with locals who speak a Chinese dialect and use the yuan as currency.

Earlier this week, about 30 people were killed on the border of Myanmar with China following a surprise raid launched by the rebels. The latest clashes, which involved artillery and small arms, have taken place in the city of Laukkai, in the Kokang region, located in northern Shan State.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Minister, said that aid has been given to those who were seeking to "temporarily avoid the war", and called for an immediate ceasefire, adding that China supports the peace process in Myanmar . He then called on all parties concerned to find a peaceful solution through dialogue and urged the contenders to find balance, to "prevent afurther escalation" and " to restore peace and stability at the border areas."

The Myanmar authorities claim that the violence erupted on March 6, when the fighters of the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched a surprise raid, dressed in police uniforms.

The attack was aimed at the police and military posts. A separate group of fighters later attacked other sites Laukkai. Sources reported that five civilians, five police officers and at least 20 rebel fighters were killed during the operation.

The escalation of the conflict in the borderlands has raised tensions between Myanmar and Beijing. The government of Aung San Suu Kyi is trying to put an end to decades of violence, fearing that it could trigger a major new exodus of refugees.

The Northern Alliance, a coalition of ethnic armed groups including the MNDAA, has yet to join the peace process or to sign the cease-fire that has been reached with many other militias in 2015. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for March, but the date has been postponed several times.

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