Exodus From Kokang
This is a continuously updated page about events in Kokang (aka Koklong, Kunglong), Myanmar.
(The Irrawaddy) Kokang Thwart Burma Army Drug Raid. August 10, 2009.
Tension is high between the Burmese military and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), a Kokang ceasefire group, following an attempted drug raid by some 70 Burmese troops on the house of the Kokang group’s chairman on Saturday, according to sources in the area.
Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst based at the Sino-Burmese border, told The Irrawaddy that the Burmese army stood down after a standoff that lasted five and a half hours.
The MNDAA chairman, Peng Jiasheng [Burmese: Phon Kyar Shin], reportedly ordered 300 of his soldiers to block the route in anticipation of the Burmese army attempting a raid. The Burmese were encircled by Kokang insurgents while negotiations took place, said Aung Kyaw Zaw.
Kokang leader Peng Jiasheng with Kokang children at local festival
Peng reportedly told the Burmese army that they could search his home if they entered unarmed. Otherwise, he reportedly said he would order his troops to open fire on them. With no solution in sight, the Burmese army retreated.
Meanwhile, about 10,000 Kokang residents in Laogai Township fled to the Chinese border on Saturday in fear of clashes between the two armies, according to the sources.
Tensions escalated further on Sunday when Peng Jiasheng refused to meet Maj-Gen Aung Than Htut, the northeastern regional commander, according to the border sources. The Burmese regional commander allegedly wanted to meet his Kokang counterpart regarding the Kokang ceasefire group’s recent rejection of a Burmese military proposal to transform the MNDAA battalions into border guard forces.
Mai Aik Phone, who is close to several ceasefire groups in the area, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that more Burmese troops have been deployed in the region following the MNDAA’s rejection of the proposal. “It is obvious they [the Burmese army] are threatening the Kokang people and their army by dispatching more troops into the area,” he said. However, the two analysts estimated that the Burmese military will not take strong action against the Kokang group at the moment because of Aung San Suu Kyi’s ongoing trial and the fact that the country is due to hold general elections next year.
According to various sources at the Sino-Burmese border, the Burmese military has established a Regional Operations Command (ROC) with seven infantry battalions in Kokang territory in recent months.
The ethnic Kokang army was originally assigned status as an autonomous region of northern Shan State after the Kokang and the Wa army defected from the Communist Party of Burma in 1989. Along with the Wa, the Kokang are believed to be involved in the drug trade, according to international anti-narcotic agencies. However, Kokang leaders have claimed their territory has been drug-free since 2003.
Meanwhile, the Burmese military has reportedly deployed more troops around ethnic armed ceasefire groups’ areas in the wake of the groups’ refusals to transform to border guard duties. In recent months, the junta has pressured Burma’s ceasefire groups to participate in the forthcoming election in 2010. The junta has reportedly encouraged them to give up their arms in the post-election period.
(Shan Herald) Junta's ploy: Push Kokang to shoot first. August 14, 2009.
Knowing the ceasefire groups’ major concern is the border closure imposed by China, Burma’s military leaders are pushing the Laogai-based Kokang army to the limit until it sees no choice but to shoot thereby incurring the wrath of Burma’s giant neighbor, according to reports coming from the Sino-Burma border.
For example, says one, the Burmese military is crowding Kokang positions on the strategic mountain northeast of Qingxuehe (Chinshwehaw). While the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), as the Kokang Army prefers to be known, still occupies the higher peaks, lower peaks are being taken one by one by the Burma Army. “They stopped shoving us only when we told them we didn’t want them to stray into minefields surroundings our places,” a Kokang officer was quoted as saying.
China has reportedly warned both sides not to fire first. Accordingly, the Peace and Democracy Front (PDF), of which Kokang, Wa, Mongla and the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDAK) are members, has long adopted at least two principles that they believe China would approve:
• Not to shoot first
• Not to secede from Burma
“Laogai is now a ghost town,” said a local, “because nine out of ten of its population has left.”
The current crisis that arose amid Naypyitaw’s demand that all the ceasefire armies transform themselves into Border Guard Forces is said have started when 3 of the top members informed earlier to Naypyitaw that their top leader Peng Jiahseng was involved in the production of drugs and arms. The three had also accused Peng of favoring kinfolks over the others. The upshot of it was the demand by Naypyitaw to send on investigation team to Kokang and when the latter had tried to stall the move, the former arrived in the territory in force on 8 August which sparked the present stand-off.
Sources in Wa, so far left strictly alone by the junta since June, say attack on any member organization of the PDF will be regarded as one against the grouping and as such will retaliate accordingly. The new constitution, drafted and approved by Naypyitaw, has promised both Wa and Kokang self-administrative status. Kokang declared opium free in 2003 followed by Wa two years later. But both are still reported in drug-related news stories.
(The Irrawaddy) Tension Mounts between Junta and Kokang Ceasefire Group. By Saw Yan Naing. August 25, 2009.
Tension between the government and the Kokang ceasefire group increased on Monday when more than 1,000 government troops moved into the Lao Kai area in northern Shan State, according to local sources.
About 70 government trucks carried troops in the Lao Kai area. Many residents and businessmen have left the area, crossing into China, said one source.
Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst on the Sino-Burma border, said, “The situation now is serious. They [Burmese and Kokang leaders] can not negotiate any longer and fighting seems imminent.” Fighting could break out at anytime, he said.
Tension has mounted since Aug 23 when about 100 government soldiers raided the house of Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin (Peng Jiasheng), reportedly looking for illegal drugs. Peng Jiasheng has fled to China, according to Aung Kyaw Zaw. Aung Kyaw Zaw said disagreements among Kokang leaders have emerged, and some Kokang assisted government troops in the raid on Peng Jiasheng’s home.
Government authorities and some Kokang officials meet on Tuesday. After the meeting, Kokang officials who associate with government officials were named group leaders, according to Aung Kyaw Zaw. The junta is trying to convince Kokang officials to transform their army into a border guard force under the command of the government, but the Kokang have rejected the order.
The Kokang ceasefire group, also known as the Myanmar [Burma] National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), reached a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1989.
(Shan Herald) PLA moves to the Kokang border. August 25, 2009.
In anticipation of any hostilities that might break out between Kokang and the Burma Army, China’s People’s Liberation Army has moved more than 700 troops to the Sino-Burma border, according to a ceasefire source last evening.
On the opposite side of the border are some 2,000 Burma Army troops who are taking positions to grab any opportunity that might be offered by the warring factions in the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), as the Kokang Army prefers to be known.
On the one side of the MNDAA is Peng Jiasheng, the Kokang supreme leader, who appears to be getting the upper hand by having in command the loyalty of the bulk of the army.
On the other side are 4 dissident leaders who have transferred their allegiance to the Burma Army in order to oust him:
• Bai Souqian, Deputy Commander
• Mi Xiaoting, Chief Administrative Officer
• Li Guoshi, EC member
• Li Erh, EC member
A fifth leader Wei Xiaoyang was reportedly detained by Peng’s faction.
“Bai’s faction at first managed to rally a little over 100 troops to their camp,” said a local ceasefire officer. “But most of them have chosen to return to Peng’s fold.”
Peng already has survived a mutiny more than a decade ago. But this time, the Burma Army appears to be definitely on the mutineers’ side.
On 21 August, an arms repair workshop (not an arms factory, as reported earlier) in Yanglonggai, east of the Kokang capital Laogai, was seized by the Burma Army. On the following day, the police in Shan State North capital Lashio served a summons for Peng, his younger brother Jiafu and his two sons to appear in court. The 4 however had failed to show up. Tensions between the two sides, flared up again since.
Some analysts say the Burma Army’s objective is to stir up the flame of conflict between the Kokang factions and take advantage of it to seize the territory. “It wouldn’t be unlike the Mongkoe incident (which took place in 2000),” remembered a Chinese businessman of Shan descent.
On 24 October 2000, a faction of the Mongkoe Defense Army (MDA), a breakaway group from Kokang, had mutinied. A month later, the mutineers were executed, the MDA leader Mong Sala put in jail and the territory occupied by the Burma Army.
Wa and other allies of Kokang, in the meanwhile, have called for non-interference in Kokang internal affairs. “We should only help them sort it out among themselves peacefully,” said a Wa officer who requests anonymity.
(Shan Herald) Kokang capital falls: “Not shoot first” policy under fire August 26, 2009.
Laogai, the capital of Kokang, just 5 months after celebrating the 20th anniversary of peace with the country’s military rulers, is under Burma Army control since Monday night, 24 August, according to sources.
“I haven’t seen any Kokang fighters all day,” said one of the few remaining residents told SHAN yesterday. “Everywhere it’s the Burmese the soldiers.”
Another source said he had gone past what was until yesterday the mansion of Peng Jiasheng, the Kokang supreme leader and saw only Burmese policemen both inside and outside the wall.
Peng and three others, which included his younger brother Jiafu and two sons, were said to have escaped to the north with his troops.
According to the latest information, Peng and troops loyal to him are still holding positions northeast of Laogai and at Qingsuihe (Chinshwehaw) aka Nampha on the southern border with Wa.
As the new base at Kunghsa is just 4km from Laogai, the Burma Army could have mounted an attack if it chose to. “But they have yet to do it, probably because it is too uncomfortably near the Chinese border,” said a source from the border. “The Burma Army has instead brought in other Kokang rivals of Peng to deal with him. Apart from Bai Souqian (his former deputy), there are now Kokang militias loyal to the Burma Army from Kunlong, Hopang and even his archenemy Yang Mouliang. If there is going to be any shooting, the Burma Army can now tell the Chinese it’s a fight among the Kokangs, the Burma Army has nothing to do with it.”
On the other side of the border, China has set up a temporary holding center for the refugees from Burma, according to the same source. “They are giving them a blanket and a mat each, besides food,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) is reportedly holding an emergency meeting with its Kokang ally this morning at Namteuk, south of Qingshihe. The two towns are separated by the Namting and connected by a bridge over it. “The fall of Qingsuihe,” admitted a Wa source, “could greatly threaten the safety of Namteuk and restrict our movements.” Namteuk is the headquarters of the UWSA’s 318th Division, commanded by Bao Ai Roong, the Wa supreme leader’s nephew.
The fall of Laogai without a shot being fired has brought into question the practicality of the “Not Shooting First” policy of the Peace and Democracy Front (PDF), whose members include Kokang, Wa and Mongla. “We should also have spelled out what movements by the Burma Army would be deemed as hostile acts,” said a Shan ceasefire officer. “Now, because we have said that we won’t shoot first, the Burma Army is being allowed to beef up its forces around us.” The Kokang debacle could be repeated elsewhere, he warned, if the alliance continued to hold on the policy.
Kokang, since 1989, had been under the control of Peng Jiasheng. The Burmese authorities, now that an arrest warrant for him has been issued, is reportedly encouraging Peng’s rival groups to set up a new leadership.
(The Irrawaddy) Junta Tries To Discredit Kokang Leaders Linked to Drugs. By Saw Yan Naing. August 26, 2009.
The recent tension between government troops and the Kokang ceasefire group in northern Shan State is seen by observers as a tactic to pressure the Kokang into joining the junta’s border guard force. After junta troops entered the Kokang-controlled area on Tuesday, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, chief of the military affairs security unit, arrived in Lao Kai and met with newly appointed Kokang leaders, said Aung Kyaw Zaw, an analyst on the Sino-Burma.
Nyo Ohn Myint, a Burmese politician in exile, said the regime is trying to show that the Kokang and the Wa ceasefire groups are heavily involved in drug production and sales, in an effort to discredit current leaders and to replace them with leaders who may be willing to cooperate with the regime. “I think the regime is using a clever mechanism to handle the crisis with the ceasefire groups,” he said. He noted that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) has been identified by the United States as an organization deeply involved in the drug trade.
Observers said the junta sees the Kokang as one of the weakest ceasefire groups, and one it may be able to convince to transition into a border guard force. “The scenario for the Kokang is not good,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw. “They may end up complying with the junta.”
Burma watcher David Scott Mathieson noted that the regime wants all ethnic ceasefire groups to join the border guard force by October.
Tension mounted last week when junta troops raided the home of a Kokang leader, Peng Jiasheng, in a search for drugs. He is said to have left the area and be in a UWSA-controlled area. Meanwhile, the state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, reported that a large amount of illegal drugs was seized on Monday in Tachileik, located opposite Mai Sai, Thailand.
(The Irrawaddy) Tension in the North. August 26, 2009.
Tension between the Burmese military and the ethnic ceasefire militias has been rising along the Sino-Burmese border in recent months.
The latest episode occurred on Monday, when junta troops moved against the leader of the Kokang ceasefire group known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in the Lao Kai area in northern Shan State. Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin escaped arrest by Burmese troops who were looking for illegal drugs in his home, fleeing with his followers. Pheung Kya-shin, also known as Peng Jiasheng, negotiated the ceasefire agreement between the MNDAA and the regime in 1989.
The main reason for the increased tension has been the regime’s adamant demand for ceasefire groups to transform their militias into border guard forces, and the ceasefire groups’ steadfast refusal to comply.
In April 2009, the regime told ceasefire groups about their plan to transform the ceasefire militias into a border guard force. Under the new scheme, each border guard battalion would have 326 troops, with 30 soldiers from the Burmese army, including one of three commanding officers, who would take charge of administration. The border guard battalions would only be located in the territory of the ceasefire groups, and their members would receive the same pay as regular Burmese soldiers.
Large and powerful ethnic armed groups, like the Kachin, Wa and Kokang based along the Sino-Burmese border, have refused to accept the order, but smaller, weaker groups are more likely to agree. Understandably, the ceasefire groups want to maintain their independent armed forces to control their own territories and enjoy self-determination.
Analysts predict that the regime’s next target will be the Wa. The United Wa State Party’s (UWSP) opposition to the junta’s proposal has lead to heightened tensions and speculation about a renewal of armed conflict. However, the Wa army has 20,000 soldiers and the regime is unlikely to risk fighting on the Chinese border. Chinese officials who are sympathetic to ethnic groups on the border have warned the Burmese not to initiate military conflict in the area. As in the case of the Kokang group, whose new leaders are likely to be more pliant to Burmese military demands in the absence of Pheung Kya-shin, it is likely that the regime will wait for the Wa leadership to weaken.
In the south, the regime employed a divide and rule strategy to defeat the Karen National Union. The ongoing internal conflicts and infighting among Karen groups seriously weakened the once formidable Karen forces.
The ethnic armed groups in the north are not united enough to confront the regime, nor have they shown a clear political vision for the future of Burma. In the past, they expressed a desire for a federal union and sent representatives to the military-sponsored National Convention to seek amendments to the constitution, but the regime rejected their proposals.
Like the Burmese military dictators, the leaders of the ethnic groups in the north are feudal warlords who are anything but democratic. Making matters worse, the Wa and Kokang leaders are renowned for their involvement in the drug trade. The US has blacklisted many of their leaders. In 2005, the US Department of Justice announced the indictment of eight UWSP leaders, including Chairman Bao You Chang.
Hostile attitudes have hardened and preparations for an offensive on the Wa and Kokang groups have heightened since US Senator Jim Webb, who advocates engagement with the regime, visited Burma in mid-August.
The regime knows that fighting against notorious drug lords would gain the sympathy if not blessing of the US. Ironically, it is the same regime that previously turned a blind eye on the drug trade in the north, even allowing Wa and Kokang leaders to establish businesses in Burma to launder drug money.
Resolving the status of ethnic groups in the political structure of Burma is an important issue that requires a durable political solution. Meanwhile, maintaining peace in Burma is paramount, but the regime’s recent actions against the Kokang and other ethnic groups along the border can only increase distrust and exacerbate tensions.
(Reuters) Thousands flee Burma into China August 26, 2009.
Tensions between Burmese government troops and an armed ethnic group have sparked an exodus of thousands of people into China from northeastern Burma, activists and witnesses said on Wednesday.
Large groups crossed the border on Tuesday from Kokang in Burma’s Shan state, said a witness in Nansan, a town in China’s southern Yunnan province. About 10,000 people have fled Kokang since August 8, China’s Chongqing Evening News reported.
The Washington-based US Campaign for Burma said tensions had first flared on August 8, when the Burmese army deployed hundreds of troops in Kokang, a mostly ethnic Chinese region where rebels have observed a two-decade-old ceasefire with the government.
The rebels issued a statement via the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front (MPDF), a newly formed alliance of four ethnic groups, saying the army was pressuring its fighters to join a border security force under the government’s control ahead of Burma’s elections, planned for 2010. ”Tensions are extremely high,” the MPDF said in the statement issued via the US Campaign for Burma. ”With anticipation of resurgence of war, tens of thousands of ethnic people have fled.” Xie Feifei, a Nansan shop owner, said refugees were being housed by the local government in disused or half-built homes. He did not know of any who had been sent back.
”We haven’t had anything like this happen for about 10 years,” Mr Xie told Reuters on Wednesday. ”Many people have been coming across the border but it’s fallen off now. I think everyone who wants to escape has already.” However, a local government official in Nansan told Reuters that no refugees had entered the town.
The US Campaign for Burma said the mobilisation of troops was a move by the Burmese junta to force ethnic groups to form political parties to contest next year’s election, the first in Burma in 20 years.
Many ethnic groups think they have nothing to gain from running in the polls and suspect the junta is trying to neutralise their threat by bringing rebel fighters into the army under the command of the Burmese regime.
The MPDF and Chinese media said troops had attacked a factory used by the ethnic groups to service and repair weapons on suspicion that it was being used to produce illicit drugs. They said a stand-off had ensued, prompting thousands to flee the area. Burma, which has been ruled by the military since a 1962 coup, is home to more than100 ethnic groups.
Many armed groups observe a ceasefire with the government but several have resisted. Ethnic insurgencies have continued, in many cases fuelled by the opium trade.
(Reuters) Myanmar residents flee into China after new fighting August 27, 2009.
Fresh fighting has erupted between Myanmar government forces and an armed ethnic group in the remote northeast, forcing an exodus of residents into neighbouring China, state media said.
Thousands of people crossed the border earlier this week from Kokang in Myanmar's Shan State after clashes broke out, which a U.S.-based rights group said followed the deployment of troops in the area.
A news website run by Yunnan (www.yunnan.cn), the Chinese province bordering Myanmar, said fighting flared again on Thursday afternoon, "leading residents from the Myanmar side to panic and flood in large numbers into our territory." "At present, the number entering continues to increase," said the brief report.
The trouble on the frontier may raise tensions between China and Myanmar, where the military junta looks to Beijing as one of its few diplomatic backers and a crucial source of investment.
Late on Thursday, the Xinhua news agency also said the refugee influx continued, citing officials in Yunnan. "Yunnan is helping them to settle down in designated areas with supply of life necessities and medical care," said the Xinhua brief report.
Neither report said how many people had fled, or specified how many of them are Myanmar or Chinese nationals. Earlier Chinese news reports had said close to 10,000 people had crossed into Yunnan to escape the fighting.
The Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma has said tensions first flared on Aug. 8 when the Myanmar army deployed hundreds of troops in Kokang, a mostly ethnic Chinese region where rebels have observed a two-decade-old ceasefire with the government. Burma is the former name of Myanmar. The U.S. Campaign for Burma said the mobilisation of troops was a move by the junta to force ethnic groups to form political parties to contest next year's election, the first in Myanmar in 20 years.
Many ethnic groups feel they have nothing to gain from running in the polls and suspect the junta is trying to neutralise their threat by bringing rebel fighters into the army under the command of the Yangon regime.
The Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front (MPDF), a newly formed alliance of four ethnic groups, and Chinese media reports have said troops had attacked a factory used by the ethnic groups to repair weapons on suspicion it was being used to produce illicit drugs.
(Xinhua) Tense situation in N. Myanmar's Shan state prevails August 27, 2009.
The situation in Myanmar's special region-1 in northern Shan state, bordering China's southwestern Yunnan Province, has been tense in past few days, triggering influx of Myanmar border inhabitants and local Chinese merchants into the Chinese territory.
According to reliable sources on Thursday, the exodus of border inhabitants into Yunnan border areas resulted from a check by Myanmar police on a gun-repair factory on Aug. 8 in the region, also known as Kokang, on suspicion of drug production. The standoff between the local Kokang ethnic army and the police has caused panic among local people, the sources said. Merchants said the situation has impacted the local border trade activities and the people's daily life.
The Kokang region's Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, led by Phone Kyar Shin, returned to the legal fold on March 31, 1989, but was allowed to retain arms, establish the northern Shan state special region-1 and enjoy self-administration on condition. Covering an area of over 10,000 square kilometers, the Kokang region is located in Myanmar's northeastern part, bordering some areas of China's Yunnan Province. It has a population of about 150,000.
So far, the Myanmar government has not made any comment on the situation.
(Shan Herald) Clashes push more refugees into neighboring area. By Hseng Khio Fah. August 27, 2009.
Today, many more refugees have been fleeing into China in order to escape clashes of the Burma Army and Kokang that have taken since this morning, according to sources.
The first shoot out was staged by the Kokang at about 07:00 at Mangpiang village, Laogai, which reportedly killed 3 Burmese soldiers and dozens of weapons were also seized by the rebel group, said a local resident who declined not to be named.
The fighting marked the very first time for the Burma Army and the Kokang since the latter concluded a ceasefire agreement with Rangoon in 1989.
“People were very shaken and just rushed to China when they heard the shootings,” he said. However, people who do not possess Chinese ID cards were not allowed entry, except Chinese and Kokang, he added. “Hundreds of Chinese policemen are guarding in front of the gate,” he said.
Thousands of people have already fled to Nan San (Nam Hsang in Shan) Township since Monday, when the Kokang issued a statement that “People have to be prepared all the time.”
According to the latest report, Peng Jiasheng’s faction was reported to have seized back their arms repair workshop which was raided by the Burmese Army on Monday night, August 24. The two sides nearly came to blows with each other on 8 August when the Burma Army demanded to investigate reports of Kokang force having an arms factory. Since then, thousands of Burmese troops were moved into Kokang.
The Burmese military has been pressuring all ethnic ceasefire groups since April to transform themselves into a border guard force under the government’s control ahead of their elections planned for 2010.
(China Daily) Myanmar clash triggers exodus into China August 28, 2009.
A clash in Myanmar's Kokang region Thursday triggered an exodus of ethnic Kokang people into China's nearby Yunnan province, said Yunnan's foreign affairs office Thursday. "The number of people crossing the border is on the rise," the office said in a statement. Yunnan set up reception areas and offered shelter and daily necessities to the displaced people, the office said.
Thousands have already fled this month from northeastern Myanmar into China after tension ramped up between government troops and the Kokang area's regional army, AP reported on Wednesday. Several thousand have streamed over the border each day into the town of Nansan, in southern Yunnan province, AP quoted one resident as saying.
Between Aug 8 and 12, about 10,000 people are believed to have left Kokang, most of them were Chinese traders and expatriate workers, according to reports in the Chongqing Evening News.
Tension started to rise on Aug 7 after Myanmar's government troops sent 30 police officers into a weapons repair factory in Kokang to find out whether the facility was being used to produce drugs, the paper reported. The Kokang army, which has observed a ceasefire with the national government since 1989, disliked the incursion.
It said in a statement that the government army was pressuring it to join a border security force under the government's control ahead of Myanmar's elections planned for next year, AP reported. The Kokang army is part of an alliance of four ethnic groups called the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front. "The clash indicates that the Myanmar government has intensified its efforts to control the Kokang army loyal to Kokang supreme commander Peng Jiasheng. There's division among the Kokang army, and the government wants to take advantage of it," said Song Qingrun, senior researcher on South Asia studies with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. "The government's top priority is to ensure a peaceful election, especially in regions like Kokang," Song explained.
Song said the situation will not impact China-Myanmar relations but will hurt local businesses and border trade. More than 10,000 Chinese businessmen and workers earned their living in Kokang, where up to 90 percent of shops are owned by Chinese.
(The Australian) Burmese drive rebels into China. By Michael Sainsbury. August 28, 2009.
A 20-YEAR truce between Burma and the Kokang ethnic Chinese minority has collapsed after the ruling junta took control of the township of Lougai, sending tens of thousands of refugees to China's border. Tensions escalated on Monday when the Burmese army ordered the rebels to move out of the Kokang Special Region.
China's Chongqing Evening Post said up to 10,000 refugees had fled from the area to the Chinese border town of Nansan, in southwestern Yunnan province, between August 8 and 12. The exodus began when Burma sent dozens of military police to crack down on a gun repair factory suspected of being a front for drugs production, the report said. Although the newspaper said the situation had since eased, with China assisting to repatriate the refugees, the Washington-based group US Campaign for Burma warned of more confrontation after tensions "escalated to a dangerous level" this week. The group said the 20-year truce between Kokang rebels and Burma's government now seemed to be "effectively broken". "More confrontation and military encounters are expected in the following days, and thousands of villagers are fleeing to the China-Burma border to avoid the war, and subsequent human rights abuses," it said.
Burma, under military rule since 1962, has signed ceasefires with 17 ethnic armed groups. Rights groups have accused the military regime of committing crimes against humanity by targeting civilians during its offensive against ethnic rebels. Tens of thousands of refugees live along Thailand's border with Burma, most of whom have fled crackdowns in the east. USCB said it expected the junta to employ similar strategies to "wipe out ethnic resistance" in northern Burma.
The dispute comes only weeks after Burmese democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi had another 18 months added to her 16-year house arrest ahead of planned elections next year, which she will now miss.
China has a huge financial stake in Burma's stability, having invested billions of dollars to access the country's vast untapped resources and is expected to use its influence to resolved the tension. A border official in Nansan, who asked not to be named, confirmed that "many" Burmese nationals had arrived in China in recent weeks, but could not give a precise figure. He said local and provincial authorities had set up an office to deal with the influx of refugees, without elaborating.
Human Rights Watch this month called on Burma's junta to immediately end attacks against civilians after thousands were displaced in Shan state. It said the Burmese army had deployed battalions to clear civilians from large areas in central Shan between July 27 and August 1, burning down more than 500 houses as they attacked 39 villages in the area. HRW said it thought the forced relocation operation was part of an intensified campaign against Shan State Army-South, an armed insurgent group.
(The Guardian) Thousands flee Burma as army clashes with Kokang militias. By Tania Branigan. August 28, 2009.
Thousands of people have fled from northern Burma into China after fighting erupted between government troops and an armed ethnic group yesterday, breaking a 20-year ceasefire.
Witnesses in the Chinese border town of Nansan, in southern Yunnan province, reported hearing further gunfire today. Officials said about 10,000 refugees had arrived from Kokang, a mostly ethnically Chinese region where many Chinese nationals also do business, in the last few days.
A news website run by the Yunnan authorities said fighting "led residents from the Myanmar [Burma] side to panic and flood in large numbers into our territory". Many more arrived before the outbreak of fighting, as government troops moved into Kokang, part of the Shan state, which covers about a quarter of Burma. The exile-run Shan Herald Agency for News said Kokang's capital, Laogai, had been under Burmese government control since Monday night.
Analysts warned that the fighting could spread.
The government signed a ceasefire with ethnic groups in the Shan state in 1989, allowing them to hold on to their arms. Several fused their political aims with vast drug operations and have grown increasingly powerful, enjoying considerable autonomy. But the Burmese army has gradually increased its presence and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the official name of the ruling military junta, recently began pressing the militias to be incorporated into an official border force.
Tensions spilled over on 8 August when the army tried to raid the home of Kokang leader Peng Jiashen, also known as Phon Kyar Shin, saying they were looking for drugs. Government soldiers and a breakaway Kokang faction forced Peng's troops out of Laogai this week.
"Many people have crossed the border since 8 August. Yesterday there were a lot more because the war [sic] started and I heard some fences even got pushed over by people trying to get in. Today there are not so many," a local businessman said. "If you go near the border you can hear machine guns."
A worker with an international medical charity, who asked not to be named, told Associated Press that local authorities were caring for about 4,000 refugees and several thousand more were staying in hotels or with relatives.
The Chinese government has toughened security along the normally porous border, the Global Times reported. "These special regions have become a time bomb for Myanmar [Burma]," He Shengda, an expert on the region at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, told the Chinese newspaper. "These local militia won't meekly abandon power, and a region that was peaceful may experience turmoil."
The junta that rules Burma has been anxious to ensure stability before national elections next year – the first since 1990 polls that were won by the opposition but not honoured by the junta.
Some analysts argue the push against the Kokang could backfire. "It could spread to a lot of groups around the area … People don't realise how heavily militarised this zone is," said David Mathieson of Human Rights Watch.
He added: "For the Kokang and Wa and other groups, [the ceasefires] were a respite to make money, develop their areas and eventually gain a level of autonomy in the political reforms the SPDC [then called the State Law and Order Restoration Council or SLORC] promised.
"From the SPDC side, they wanted a respite to consolidate urban areas after the 1988 uprising. They thought these groups would be weakened and eventually would come back into the legal fold and surrender their weapons."
Both sides had become frustrated in recent years, he suggested.
Mathieson said China was likely to put pressure on both the Burmese government and the Kokang to ensure the border was "completely stable" to safeguard energy supplies and for the sake of Chinese businesses.
The Irrawaddy, an exile-run website, reported that the Mong La group and the powerful United Wa State Army had joined the Kokang in a counter-offensive yesterday.
It quoted Aung Kyaw Zaw, an analyst based on the Sino-Burmese border, as saying that Peng Jiasheng had fled to a Wa base and released a statement urging the Burmese regime to withdraw troops and seek a peaceful solution. Burmese authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Peng and his supporters and appointed defectors from his ranks as the new Kokang leaders, it added.
"Although problematic in many ways, the ceasefires agreed between the Burmese military government and most - but not all - armed ethnic groups since 1989 have led to a reduction in the most serious forms of human rights abuse, and have created some space for the re-emergence of civil society networks," said Ashley South, author of Ethnic Politics in Burma: States of Conflict.
"[But] the ceasefires have not addressed the underlying causes of ethnic conflict in Burma. Until there is a political settlement, the 'ethnic issue' will remain – together with the lack of democracy – one of the two fundamental political conflicts in Burma."
(New York Times) Refugees Flee to China as Fighting Breaks Out in Myanmar By Thomas Fuller. August 28, 2009.
After two decades of relative calm in northern Myanmar, fighting has broken out between the central government and upland ethnic groups, sending tens of thousands of refugees fleeing into neighboring China
The fighting in Shan State, including two battles on Thursday near the Myanmar town of Kunglong, threatens to undo a fragile patchwork of cease-fire agreements that brought calm to the mountainous northern areas in the 1990s after decades of civil war.
The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Thursday that refugees were fleeing into Yunnan Province, which borders Myanmar. An estimate by the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a pressure group that opposes Myanmar’s central government, put the number of refugees at around 10,000. Myanmar was formerly known as Burma. The office of the United States High Commissioner for Refugees said it had received reports that 10,000 to 30,000 people fleeing the fighting had entered Yunnan Province since Aug. 8.
“We have been informed that local authorities in Yunnan Province have already provided emergency shelter, food and medical care to the refugees,” the agency said in a statement.
More than a dozen armed ethnic groups are being pressed by Myanmar’s central government to give up their weapons and become border guards, an effort that appears to have galvanized the groups’ opposition toward the central government.
“In my 30 years’ experience on the border this is the first time I’ve seen such unity among the ethnic groups,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a former soldier in the defunct Burmese Communist Party who monitors the conflict from his home in Ruili, along the China-Myanmar border.
Fighting between government forces and soldiers from the Kokang ethnic group took place Thursday morning in the village of Yan Lon Kyaik, only a few hundred yards from the border with China, Mr. Aung Kyaw Zaw said. It resumed Thursday evening in the village of Chin Swe Haw, where three Kokang fighters and several dozen government troopers were killed, he added.
There was no way to independently confirm the accounts of the fighting, which occurred in a remote area along the border. The Kokang are reportedly receiving help from other ethnic groups.
The Myanmar military moved troops into the area earlier this month, saying they would crack down on the illegal drug business, according to the U.S. Campaign for Burma. If the Myanmar military continues its advance, Mr. Aung Kyaw Zaw said, “there will be so much bloodshed.” The central government, he said, has sent reinforcements to the area.
Various ethnic groups control large pockets of territory in the northern borderland areas and risk losing their control over the lucrative trade in timber, jade, gemstones and, in some cases, heroin and methamphetamine. The Kokang are allied with the most heavily armed group along the Chinese border, the United Wa State Army, which has about 20,000 soldiers and is known to have large-caliber weapons, including field artillery and antitank missiles. Farther north, the Kachin Independence Army has around 4,000 men under arms.
“This Kokang fighting is not only a Kokang problem — it has become a wider issue,” said Brang Lai, a local official in Laiza, a town on the Chinese border controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization.
“The border guard issue is unacceptable for all the armed groups. All the armed groups have a common agreement to help each other.” The refugee crisis prompted China to make a rare comment about the internal affairs of one of its neighbors. Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that the government in Beijing “hopes that Myanmar can properly deal with its domestic issue to safeguard the regional stability of its bordering area,” Xinhua reported. She also said China was monitoring the situation and had expressed concern about the safety of its citizens in the area.
The fighting comes as Myanmar’s military government prepares to adopt a new and disputed Constitution next year.
“They want to show military victory before the elections next year,” said Win Min, a lecturer in contemporary Burmese politics at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In early June the government launched a successful offensive against ethnic Karen insurgents along the border with Thailand.
The elections and new Constitution would nominally return Myanmar to civilian governance after four and a half decades of military rule. The junta is proposing a unitary state, but the ethnic groups are loath to give up their hard-won autonomy and fear domination by the majority Burman ethnic group, most of whom are Buddhist and today hold the reins of power in Myanmar’s military junta.
“My sense is that the fighting will continue and could spread to other areas,” said Aung Din, the executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.
(Global Times) Myanmar conflict puts China in dilemma. By Qiu Yongzheng and Guo Qiang. August 28, 2009.
Thousands of ethnic Chinese in Myanmar are making their way across the border into Chinese territory to seek shelter from the ruling military force that has deployed troops to the region, according to local authorities in China's Nansan county, southwest Yunnan Province.
Yu Chunyan, deputy press officer with the Yunnan Provincial Government, told the Global Times that some Myanmar nationals in Kokang have fled to Nansan, and efforts to provide them with humanitarian assistance are in place. But Yu said the number of people entering Chinese territory wasn't available, as it is still rising. “It's difficult to get a real-time update of that number,” he said.
An unnamed official in Nansan said local and provincial authorities have set up an emergency office and a refugee camp to deal with the rise in refugees. The Economic Information Daily, run by the Xinhua News Agency, reported Wednesday that up to 10,000 refugees fled the area from August 8-12 alone. China has increased the number of armed police along the China-Myanmar border to prevent conflicts from spilling into China, the Global Times has learned.
The mass exodus from Kokang broke out after the Myanmar Army deployed troops, according to an AFP report, citing the US Campaign for Burma (USCB), which uses Myanmar's former name. “Myanmar residents make up most of the influx,” Yu said. “Some of them have turned to relatives in China. But for the majority of them, we have provided timely humanitarian assistance, including accommodations, blankets and food.”
A source close to Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin (Peng Jiasheng), who declined to give his name, citing the sensitivity of the issue, told the Global Times, “The government military and Kokang armed forces are at war, leading to a number of civilian deaths; many hospital ambulances in Chinese territories are in place to transfer the victims.”
As of press time yesterday, Peng's official residence remained under police control, and Myanmar government troops and the Kokang armed forces had temporarily ceased fire. A statement issued by Kokang armed forces via the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front (MPDF), a newly formed alliance of four ethnic groups, said the army was pressuring them to join a border-security force under the government's control ahead of Myanmar's elections planned for 2010, Reuters reported.
Comprising a majority of ethnic Han Chinese, Kokang residents have lived for centuries in northeast Myanmar. The ties to China still remain, with the yuan still circulated in the area. The area also shares the same telephone area code as bordering Yunnan.
According to a report released by earthtimes.org, citing media and resistance sources, the Myanmar Army occupies Laogai, the capital of Kokang. “The domestic situation in Myanmar has raised concerns for people living in the border areas. That included Myanmar citizens, as well as Chinese doing business there,” Yu said. Duan Lianshou, a Nansan resident who has been doing business in Kokang, said, “I have invested more than 1 million yuan in the area, and I wouldn't wish the tensions in Myanmar to escalate.”
The USCB said a 20-year ceasefire between Kokang armed forces and Myanmar's government now seems to be “effectively broken.”
Zhang Wei, the owner of a motorcycle shop in Nansan county, said that heavy presence by armed police forces could be seen on the streets, and gunshots could be heard coming from the Myanmar side, about 40 kilometers from his house. “Many (people) went close to the border to take a look at what happened. I don't worry that much,” Zhang said.
Chinese analysts said the exodus of refugees has put China in a dilemma. “It's the country's internal affair, but it also involves a large number of ethnic Chinese,” said He Shengda, vice president of the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences. “China will not tolerate the Myanmar government chasing the refugees across the border. Myanmar's central government is tightening its control over its 12 special states that were formed as a result of reconciliation between the military and the central government, regaining some of the administrative power. But it won't be an easy task. Military regimes will always be reluctant to surrender their power, which jeopardizes the security of Myanmar.”
Myanmar's move to send military police to crack down on a gun-repair factory, suspected of being a front for drug production, sparked fear among the locals and prompted the exodus, the Economic Information Daily said. The country is considered the world's second-largest producer of heroin after Afghanistan. Myanmar police recently seized 36 kilograms (79 pounds) of heroin and almost 3 million methamphetamine pills in a raid near the Thai border.
(Shan Herald) Rebels say junta shell kills Chinese soldiers. August 28, 2009.
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) that has joined battle with its Kokang ally against the Burma Army yesterday said a shell aimed for its mountain base near the border had overshot the mark and killed one People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldier while wounding two others.
“When the Burma Army launched attack against the mountain base near Qingsuihe (Chinshwehaw) in the afternoon, we had no choice, but to join the fight,” said a UWSA officer who asked not to be named.
Kokang’s Qingsuihe, also known as Nampha in Shan is opposite the Wa’s Namteuk (written Nanding in Pinyin) in the south. The two towns are separated by the Namting, a tributary of the Salween, and connected by a bridge. The fall of the strategic mountain base would have threatened Namteuk, according to the UWSA.
“We captured more than a hundred POWs, whom we turned over to the PLA,” he claimed.
No independent confirmation of the rebels’ statement could be obtained as yet. (Latest information says the casualties were civilians, not PLA soldiers)
Resumption of hostilities between the Kokang-Wa-Mongla forces and the Burma Army (after 20 years of an uneasy but working truce) started yesterday morning when a police patrol that had strayed too near the Kokangs’ temporary headquarters was attacked. Three policeman were reportedly killed and the rest fled across the border where they were disarmed by the PLA. (Kachin News Group reported they were soldiers in police uniforms.)
Meanwhile, the Burma Army that had ousted Kokang leader Peng Jiasheng has appointed his former deputy-turned-defector Bai Souqian as the new leader. “The Kokang Army (also known as Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army) has about 1,000 troops,” said a businessman who had just gone out of business in Kokang. “Not more than 200 had joined Bai. The rest are still with Peng.”
The Burma Army’s next target after Kokang that covers the Wa’s northern border could be Mongla that protects the Wa’s southern border, said a the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ source. The closure of two borders could have strangled the UWSA to death without fighting, according to a Thai security source.
However, according to reports coming from the Thai-Burma border, the Burma Army’s next target could also be the UWSA’s 171st Military Region, opposite Thailand’s Maehongson, Chiangmai and Chiangrai provinces.
The Operations Commander in Mongton, opposite Chinagmai, reportedly demanded on 26 August that the Wa withdraw from all their bases west of the Mongton-BP1 (Thai border) road. “He didn’t give any deadline as in the past,” said an informed source in Mongton. “He just said ‘at once’. Naturally, the Wa, instead of complying with his order, merely reinforced their positions.”
On the other hand, no reports of the new Burma Army units into the area have been received, said the SSA South. “But all our units have been placed on the alert,” said Col Yawdserk, the SSA’s supreme commander.
Meanwhile, Hkun Okker of the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) said Burma’s military rulers could find itself fighting on two fronts as in 1988. “September is the second anniversary of the Saffron Revolution,” he told SHAN. “I certainly hope the two parties (those protesting in the towns and cities and those fighting on the borders) can find ways to cooperate and coordinate their activities.”
The military regime that was facing 8888 uprising on the one hand and facing the Chinese-backed Communist Party of Burma (CPB) on the other was saved by the mutinies that erupted within the CPB’s ranks in 1989. The ensuing ceasefire pacts between the mutineers and Burma’s military government had been celebrated by Kokang, Wa and Mongla in March, April and June respectively.
(The Irrawaddy) Burmese Ceasefire Breaks Down. By Saw Yan Naing. August 28, 2009.
The ceasefire in northeastern Shan State between the Burmese military junta and several ethnic armies, including the Kokang and the Wa, was broken on Thursday when a combined force of ethnic insurgents exchanged gunfire during at least three skirmishes in and around Laogai, the Kokang capital, which is located on the Salween River bordering China.
Among the armed ethnic groups that have broken the ceasefire are the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), which is the major Kokang militia in Burma, and an ethnic alliance including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), which is commonly known as the Mong La group.
On Thursday, units from the ethnic alliance attacked the Burmese troops that had occupied Laogai since Monday night, when they were able to seize the town from the MNDAA without firing a single bullet.
During an exchange of mortar fire on Thursday between Burmese troops and the ethnic insurgents, one civilian was reportedly killed and three were injured. There were no reports of military casualties.
During an ambush on Thursday morning in Yanlongai, a town near Laogai, a Burmese police officer was reportedly killed and one was injured, according to sources in the area. Another 42 Burmese policemen were taken prisoner by the ethnic alliance, said the sources.
Soldiers from the Kokang MNDAA reportedly seized 56 automatic rifles, mostly M-16s, from the Burmese police, according to Aung Kyaw Zaw, an analyst on the Sino-Burmese border. “The fighting will escalate,” he said.
Sources said that further skirmishes broke out on Friday morning in Laogai. No further details were available. There were no reports from Burmese government sources or the national media regarding the fighting. The Chinese armed forces have reportedly reinforced their 700-man strong presence at the border as they monitor the conflict. According to a report by Health Unlimited, a humanitarian NGO working in the region, thousands of civilians fled from Burma to the Chinese side of the border on Thursday. The number could not be independently confirmed.
In recent weeks, as tensions heightened between the Burmese junta and the ethnic ceasefire groups, about 10,000 civilians fled over the Chinese border. Health Unlimited said that the mostly Kokang villagers are currently taking refuge in the Chinese border towns of Nansan in Zheng Kang County, and Qingshuihe in Gengma County, where Chinese authorities have supplied them with shelter, blankets and food rations.
A Chinese official in Kunming who asked to remain anonymous said that officials in Beijing were keeping an eye on the situation via their offices in Yunnan Province. “We want stability along our border,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday. Since the fighting broke out, there has been no let up, he added. He added that Chinese officials are not pleased with the Burmese army’s “hostile attitude” toward the minority peoples who are ethnically close to the Han Chinese. In the past, the ethnic groups at the Sino-Burmese border enjoyed military and political support from China.
Burma researcher for Human Rights Watch David Scott Mathieson said that the regime’s heavy-handed policy could only exacerbate the tension. “Instead of negotiating with these ceasefire groups, they [the Burmese army] are just trying to force them to do what the regime wants. And my concern is that this will have a very bad impact on civilians in the area. If there is more fighting, then civilians will suffer as a result,” he said.
The MNDAA, the NDAA and the UWSA are among 17 armed ethnic groups that have reportedly signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese junta over the past 20 years. In recent months, the junta has tried to persuade the ethnic ceasefire groups to join forces with the Burmese army and transform their battalions into border guard units.
(The Irrawaddy) 10,000 More Kokang Refugees Flee into China By Saw Yan Naing. August 28, 2009.
Another wave of 10,000 Kokang civilians fled into China on Thursday and Friday due to continued clashes between the Burmese army and ethnic militias in the Kokang region of northeastern Burma, said sources on the Sino-Burmese border.
Some 4,000 of the displaced villagers have not yet received food or shelter due to logistics, a relief worker in the area who requested anonymity told The Irrawaddy on Friday. He said the newly arrived Kokang refugees are being divided into two shelters—one in Zheng Kang County and one in Gengma County where Chinese authorities are already providing humanitarian assistance to the more than 10,000 Kokangs who arrived within the last week. He pointed out that many of the refugees are not sheltering in the camps because they can stay with their relatives on the Chinese side of the border. Meanwhile, electricity and lines of communication have been cut in and around the Kokang capital, Laogai, said the relief worker.
Saeng Juen, one of the editors of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News, said at least 30,000 fled into China on Thursday. The Irrawaddy could not independently confirm this report, however.
A humanitarian NGO working in the region reported on Friday that refugees are still crossing the border into Yunnan Province and clashes between the Burmese army and the Kokang militia and its allies are ongoing.
Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst on the Sino-Burmese border, said that major clashes have been reported in Chinshwehaw, a Kokang town south of Laogai, at about 11 a.m. On Friday. He said that Chinese authorities would only allow Kokang-based Chinese nationals to cross into China and that some refugees were stopped at the border crossing.
The Burmese army seized Laogai on Monday night without a single bullet being fired. However, on Thursday morning a Burmese police patrol was ambushed by the Kokang army, and several clashes were later reported in and around Laogai between the Burmese army and an alliance of ethnic ceasefire groups: the Kokang militia, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and its allies the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army—Eastern Shan State (NDAA).
The three insurgent groups are among 17 ethnic armies that have reportedly signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese junta over the past 20 years.
(The Irrawaddy) Junta Renews ‘Divide-and-Rule’ Tactic in Shan State By Wai Imoe. August 28, 2009.
Two decades of ceasefire agreements between the Burmese junta and northern ethnic armies have collapsed as armed clashes broke out on Thursday when the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and its ethnic allies opened fire on Burmese troops around the Kokang capital of Laogai.
Government troops took over Laogai on Monday without firing a single shot. According to informed border sources, skirmishes continued from Thursday morning into Friday. Government troops fired artillery rounds into MNDAA positions, reportedly killing one Chinese civilian. One government policeman also has died, sources said.
Border guards and the regime’s constitution
Tension between the regime and ethnic ceasefire groups in northern Shan state increased steadily over the past few months as the junta began pressuring cease-fire groups to disarm and transform into a border guard force in April, in accordance with the new 2008 constitution which calls for all ethnic armies to be under the control of the regime. Cease-fire groups such as the Wa, Kachin, Shan State Army [North] and Kokang have all rejected the guard force proposal.
Wa and Kokang delegates who attended the military-sponsored National Convention in Rangoon spoke out against the clause in the draft constitution, saying it limited the autonomy of ethnic minorities. Aung Moe Zaw, a secretary with the exiled umbrella opposition National Council of Union of Burma, said the recent conflict clearly grows out of the flawed approval process of the constitution in 2008. The ethnic minorities also are unhappy about the junta’s so-called “7-steps to democracy” process leading up to the 2010 national election.
Why the Kokang?
Why did the junta’s generals choose to confront the Kokang leaders first?
The Kokang army, with about 800 troops, is weaker than other ethnic armies, and its leaders clearly opposed placing their troops under government control. The Kokang are widely known to be heavily involved in the illicit drug trade. Compared to the 20,000 Wa soldiers in the UWSA and the 4,000 Kachin soldiers with the KIA, the Kokang army presents an easy target.
The regime first launched a public relations offensive, linking Peng Jiasheng to the illicit drug trade. Bertil Linter, a Swedish journalist, noted the irony of the charge, considering that until recently Peng Jiasheng was always wheeled out to meet foreigner visitors including UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari and presented as “a leader of the local nationals.”
The regime was also well aware of internal conflict among the Kokang leaders, and when Peng Jiasheng abandoned his headquarters in Laogai, it quickly put together a pro-regime Kokang faction to challenge the leadership of the MNDAA. It is a proven regime divide-and-rule tactic that was used successfully on Karen rebels in 1995. “They [the junta] will replay the old game—create a proxy group then say two things: it’s a dispute over drugs and other criminal acts and it has nothing to do with the Tatamadaw [the armed forces],” said Min Zin, a US-based contributor to The Irrawaddy.
China has repeatedly called for political stability on the northern border and for national reconciliation, and it is worried about a migration of refugees into Chinese territory. It is difficult to gauge how China will deal with the armed clashes, but it has offered political support in the past to ethnic Wa, Kachin and Kokang along the border, while also supporting the junta.
On Thursday, the Secretary 1 of the junta, Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo, met with the visiting Chinese Deputy Commerce Minister Chen Jian in Naypyidaw. Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, the information minister and an important member of the junta, met with the Chinese Cultural Counselor Charge d’ Affairs, Gao Hua, in the capital on Wednesday. Chinese officials were expected to raise the issue about the conflict along the northern border opposite Yunnan Province.
It is believed that senior Chinese and Burmese officials continue to hold meetings in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, according to sources on the border. During the meetings, Chinese officials reportedly have warned their Burmese counterparts, charging that Burmese soldiers crossed into Chinese territory this week.
According to the state-run China Daily, Song Qingrun, a senior researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said that the situation on the border will have no impact on China-Burma relations. Song, however, added it will hurt local businesses and border trade as more than 10,000 Chinese businessmen and workers live in Kokang-controlled territory where up to 90 percent of the businesses are owned by Chinese.
(Mizzima) Thousands flee as Kokang and government troops fight. By Myo Gyi & Mungpi. August 28, 2009.
Thousands of refugees on Friday continued fleeing to the Sino-Burma border as clashes between the Burmese Army and Kokang rebels entered the second day.
Tension, which had been building up since early August, between the two armies sparked a gun fight on Thursday and on Friday skirmishes continued in various locations near the Sino-Burma border and in the Kokang capital of Lao Kai. “Most refugees are from Lao Kai town. They include various groups of people including businessmen. They continued coming until this morning,” a refugee, who crossed over to the Chinese town of Nam San on Friday morning, told Mizzima. He said, as most refugees are not concentrated in one location it is difficult to determine the exact number but he believes it would be thousands.
On Friday morning, sources said, a skirmish took place in Loa Kai town between the Kokang troops, who remain loyal to their supreme leader Peng Jiasheng, and the government troops, who have lately taken control of the Kokang headquarters of Lao Kai.
According to Sein Kyi, editor of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), the fighting broke out as supporters of Peng, who remain hidden in parts of the town, attacked the Burmese soldiers and police in Loa Kai town. Lao Kai, the once fortified headquarters of Peng, was overun by the Burmese soldiers and police on Monday, after Peng, the supreme leader of the Kokang Army, along with three others were issued arrest warrants.
On Tuesday, with the help of government troops, Peng’s deputy Bai Suoqian was appointed the new leader of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). “But Peng still enjoys the support of most of the Kokang Army and some of them still remain inside Loa Kai. This morning, they attacked the Burmese Army,” Sein Kyi, who is closely monitoring the situation in Kokang, told Mizzima. He said fighting also took place in separate areas along the Loa Kai-Qing Shui He (Chin Shwe Haw), and also in other places along the Sino-Burma border.
But with clashes mounting, villagers and local residents continue to flee to the Chinese side of the border and are being forced to live in terrible conditions. “We have to survive on our own. We have to rent and arrange our own food. So far I still did not get any assistance from anywhere. Chinese authorities, are crossing checking us but it is not so strict. Even this morning there were a lot of people arriving,” a refugee told Mizzima.
The mass exodus, which some reports state to be over 10,000, began after tension broke out between the Kokang and the junta’s troops in early August. On August 8, government troops conducted a raid on Peng’s residence on the pretext of eliminating drugs.
And on August 23, the Burmese soldiers conducted yet another raid on Peng’s house on the pretext of searching for a hidden arms factory. But in both the raids, Peng escaped arrest. But later, the Lashio police served a summons to him and three others to appear before the court. But when Peng refused to appear, an arrest warrant was issued for him and three others including his brother.
“Earlier, I thought Peng and his troops will hold on to their line of ‘No shooting first’ but now it seems they are not hesitating to fire,” Sein Kyi said. The fight on Thursday near Qing Shui He was first launched by the Kokang Army, said Sein Kyi adding that the Kokang Army had warned the Burmese soldiers not to cross over to their remaining territory.
The tension between the Kokang forces and government troops slowly began after Peng’s troops rejected the junta’s proposal to transform their army into a Border Guard Force, an army to be controlled by the Burmese Army.
Observers believe that the junta is using the same old devious tactic of divide and rule in order to eliminate groups that rejected its proposal. Phoe Than Gyuang, spokesperson of the once powerful Burma Communist Party (BCP), said “we have seen the junta’s tactics earlier and this is similar. We can expect the junta to launch attacks on other groups soon.”
Peng’s Kokang Army has former members of the once powerful Communist Party of Burma (CPB). The MNDAA broke away from the CPB in 1989 and signed a peace agreement with the Burmese junta the same year. Following the ceasefire pact, the Kokang Amry had been given special privileges including self-administration of the Kokang area known as Special region (1). But the once cosy relationship between the two armies, following the junta’s proposal to turn the Kokang Army into a Border Guard force, has soured.
Sein Kyi said, “Fighting is likely to continue as the Kokang seems to be determined to keep its territory intact. And I was also receiving information that the Wa army has send troops to help the Kokang.”
The United Wa State Army, also a group that broke away from the CPB and signed a peace agreement with the junta in 1989, had recently formed an alliance with three other armed groups – the Kokang Army or MNDAA, the Mongla or Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) and the Kachin Independence Organisation. All the four groups that formed the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front (MPDF) had all rejected the junta’s proposal to transform their armies.
But as fighting between the armies continue, more villagers are forced to flee to the Chinese border as refugees of war or hide in the jungles as internally displaced people.
(China Daily) Myanmar called on to end fighting. By Bao Daozu and Li Yingqing. August 29, 2009.
One person was killed and several people were injured in Yunnan province by a bomb thrown from across China's border with Myanmar on Friday as fighting in the Kokang area of Myanmar continued, an official of Red Cross Society's Yunnan branch said. The injured have been admitted to hospital, He Yongchun, deputy president of Red Cross's Yunnan provincial branch, said.
Clashes broke out between Myanmar government troops and the Kokang army earlier this month and many people have fled Myanmar in fear. By Friday morning, about 10,000 people, including ethnic Kokang and Chinese businessmen, had crossed over from Myanmar into Nansan town and Genma county of Yunnan province.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said China hoped Myanmar would deal with the situation properly and ensure stability along the border and protect Chinese citizens in Myanmar. "China is following the situation closely and has expressed concern to Myanmar," Jiang said. Seven camps have been set up for the displaced people, the Yunnan news website Yunnan.cn said, and a few small groups are still crossing over into China.
Some of the displaced people have sought shelter in their relatives' houses in the border towns, while others are staying in hotels, He said. A person who answered the phone at Nanhai Hotel in Nansan told China Daily that the hotel was fully booked.
Myanmar's ambassador to China, Thein Lwin, told China Daily: "I thank the government of China for taking care of the people who have fled (Myanmar) in fear." The two governments are cooperating "in all fields to control the situation, although I cannot give you details", he said. Lwin said: "I believe the situation will improve soon and people in the camps can go back home." The fighting is concentrated in forests and some pockets of the Kokang area, and Lwin said he had no news of civilian casualties.
(Shan Herald) Fighting in Kokang continues. August 29, 2009.
Hostilities that broke out on Thursday (27 August) continued for the second day yesterday but on a lower intensity probably due to China’s intervention, according to sources.
The main clashes took place in:
• Yanglongjai, just south of the Laogai-Nansan cross border checkpoint, according to a report by the pro-Bai Souqian faction that had ousted his former boss Peng Jiasheng
• And on the Kokang-Wa-Yunnan triangle area, where the Burma Army has been attempting to dislodge troops loyal to Peng from their mountain bases at Qingsuihe
Some 4-500 United Wa State Army (UWSA) fighters had taken part in the defense of the bases, according to a ceasefire source. “The fighting stopped at about 13:00,” he said. “The Burma Army’s attacking force is said to be waiting for reinforcements from the rear.”
It would nevertheless take some time before the back-up units arrive, said other sources, because some of the bridges were demolished by the rebels.
There was also a report that one of Kokang’s allies Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’ had staged hit-and-run tactics to delay the reinforcements. But an SSA commander had flatly denied the report. “We are just holding our positions,” he said.
As usual, reports of the Burma Army rounding up civilians to carry supplies in support of the campaign have begun to filter in. One eye-witness report says even people in the city of Lashio, Shan State North’s capital, were not spared. “As a result, streets became deserted in the evening and many shops were closed by 8pm,” said a resident.
China has for the first time urged Burma to peacefully resolve matters with the Kokang minority, reported CCTV yesterday.
Kokang, Wa, Mongla and a Kachin splinter group used to be part of the Communist Party of Burma’s People’s Army. The 4 party alliance Peace and Democracy Front (PDF) has yet to accept non-former CPB groups such as SSA North and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) as members. SSA was regarded only as “the closest ally outside the PDF.” The CPB, backed by China, had fought against Rangoon, until it was overthrown by the ethnic forces under its command in 1989.
(The Irrawaddy) Fighting Stops as Kokang Surrenders Arms to Chinese. By Wai Moe. August 29, 2009.
Fighting near the Sino-Burmese border came to an abrupt halt today after about 700 Kokang troops handed over their weapons to Chinese officials following days of clashes that sent thousands fleeing across the border.
Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese military analyst who is close to the Kokang, told The Irrawaddy on Saturday that at least 700 soldiers from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), an ethnic-Kokang militia, crossed the border into China today and surrendered their arms to local officials. He added that troops from the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a much larger force allied to the Kokang, have been repositioned to Wa-controlled territory.
The Irrawaddy was unable to verify this information with other independent sources.
The sudden end to the fighting came a day after Kokang and UWSA troops ambushed a convoy of Burmese army vehicles in Kokang territory. According to unconfirmed reports, more than a dozen Burmese soldiers were killed in the attack.
On Thursday, a 20-year ceasefire between the Burmese army and the armed ethnic groups broke down after government forces moved to occupy Kokang territory. Since then, the Burmese army has sent reinforcements into the area from Light Infantry Divisions 33 and 99.
The crisis began on Monday, when tens of thousands of refugees, including Chinese businessmen, started flooding across the border into China from Laogai, a town in Kokang territory. Cross-border trade in Laogai has since come to a standstill and trading at other border checkpoints has decreased, say sources in the area.
The rapidly deteriorating situation caused consternation in Beijing, which has long had close relations with both sides in the conflict. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said China hoped the Burmese junta would deal with the situation properly and ensure stability along the border and protect Chinese citizens in Burma. China is following the situation closely and has expressed concern to Myanmar [Burma],” said Jiang.
Some observers said that junta head Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s decision to send troops into Kokang territory despite China’s concerns showed his determination to demonstrate that he will not be constrained by Beijing. “The Burmese junta doesn’t care what anybody thinks, so I don’t think the generals are thinking about China’s response,” said Chan Tun, a former Burmese ambassador to China.
But while Naypyidaw showed little concern about the consequences of renewed fighting in the area, Beijing couldn’t ignore the worsening situation, as Chinese living near the border expressed outrage at the Burmese military’s actions.
“I feel upset with the Burmese government. The Kokang people have Chinese blood. And in China, many people are so angry that they are urging the Chinese government to send troops to help the Kokang,” said a Chinese journalist who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Although Beijing appears to have defused the potentially explosive situation for the time being, it remains to be seen if fighting will resume between the Burmese and the Wa, who command a much larger military force than the Kokang.
The current conflict stems from the refusal of ethnic ceasefire groups, including Kokang, Wa, Kachin and Shan militias, to transform themselves into border security forces under Burmese military command.
The 20,000-strong UWSA presents the greatest obstacle to Burmese ambitions to pacify the country’s borders after six decades of civil conflict. Although they were among the first ethnic groups to sign a ceasefire agreement with the current regime in 1989, they have also been the most resistant to any effort to weaken their hold over their territory.
In Rangoon, news of the clashes in the country’s north has revived memories of the insurgencies that wracked the region for decades. “People here are talking about it at teashops. They are saying that this is the return of civil war,” said an editor of a private weekly journal in Rangoon.
Meanwhile, Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), called for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict in northern Burma. “We want the junta to resolve the issue in a peaceful way with ethnic groups,” NLD spokesman Han Thar Myint told The Irrawaddy on Saturday. “The cause of the conflict is the Burmese regime’s failure to resolve problems in the country politically.”
(Global Times) Over 30 gov't soldiers killed; civil war possible in Myanmar August 29, 2009.
The Kokang armed forces had killed over 30 government soldiers and captured another 50 in the fightings during the last two days, said Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin (Peng Jiasheng) in an exclusive interview with Global Times' correspondent on Saturday. The Kokang leader refused to reveal where he is but claimed that he is safe and in charge of the battle, adding the government's military action has inflicted property damages worth millions of yuan on Kokang.
Fierce fightings between the Kokang ethnic army and the government forces on Saturday morning in Kokang region were witnessed by Global Times correspondent who rushed to Nansan, southwest China's Yunnan Province. The fightings are near Yanglongzhai, a strategic place in Kokang where Kokang leader Peng and his fellows are hiding there.
A well-informed person revealed that about 480 government forces were garrisoning on a small hill in Kokang. This morning, they charged down the hill and had a fierce shootout with Kokang ethnic army. Judged by the shot, light machine guns, tommy-guns and rifles were used in the battle.
He Yongchun, Vice President of Yunnan Provincial Red Cross Society, confirmed that one Chinese was killed and several others were injured by a bomb thrown from across China's border with Myanmar.
"Thunderous roar of guns"
"We were playing Mah-Jong when we heard thunderous roar in the direction of Kokang on August 27. Later, many local people shouted that it was the thounder of guns. They climbed up the roof of buildings and saw the smoke over Kokang's sky. By now, the battle hasn't been over, which has caused some casualties", a local driver told our correspondent.
Chinese border guards strengthen observation to prevent the conflict from spreading to China. Armed police has divided Nansan into south and north security areas. Vehicles were not allowed to enter south area, however, local people could enter the area on foot.
A group of unidentified Myanmese was detained and disarmed as they attempted to cross the border into China's Nansan county around 10am in Saturday. The group members are currently held in custody about 100 meters away from the border.
Local residents extended their worries about the conflict. "War didn't break out in the past 20 years and many Chinese do business in Kokang. The fighting in Kokang will affect border trade. We hope the two sides should cease fire first, no matter what purpose they hold."
Many people have fled Myanmar in fear. By Saturday, about 30,000 people, including ethnic Kokang and Chinese businessmen, had crossed over from Myanmar into China's Yunnan. Yang Ye, a businessman from Sichuan Province who just succeeded fleeing back to China told the Global Times' correspondent that he put the word "China" on the front and back of his clothes during his escape so that Myanmar government soldiers would not shoot him but his relatives are still trapped in Kokang.
Refugees were settled in a residential quarter under construction. Local government provided quilts, blanket, living subsidy for the refugees. Some refugees were settled in makeshift tents. Medical personnel were sent to provide necessary medical care.
China hoped Myanmar could properly solve its domestic issue to safeguard the regional stability of its bordering area with China, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu on Friday. She said China was paying close attention to the development of this issue and had expressed its concern to Myanmar through the diplomatic channel. "We also urge Myanmar to protect the safety and legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar," Jiang said.
Overall civil war looming?
As the battle progressed, media and analysts worried that overall civil war may break out in Myanmar, the Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao reported. Analysts believed that with another minority troop UWSA joining Kokang armed troops, other minority organizations which had reached cease-fire agreements with the government may join the warfare too. "If Myanmar government troops could adopt a conciliatory attitude to the minorities again, the situation will be better, otherwise the clash may lead to an overall civil war."
(BBC News) Burmese refugees flee to China town. By Chris Hogg. August 30, 2009.
From the nearest big Chinese city it takes many hours to drive to the border town of Nansan. This is a remote part of China - the town which normally has about 15,000 residents and a similar sized migrant population is right up against the Burmese border. In the middle of the town there is a steep hill. On one side it is Chinese territory. On the other side it is Burma.
For several days people have pouring over it, fleeing, they say, from the fighting on the other side between the Burmese military and the ethnic Chinese Kokang Army. Now, though, it appears that flood had shrunk to a trickle. Locals say most of those who had wanted to flee have probably done so by now.
The Chinese have erected blue tents at the bottom of the hill for the refugees. Despite the huge numbers that are reported to have come over the border, the camp does not seem to be full - but it is hard to tell for sure because the police will not let us in.
There is not one empty hotel room in town. In the backstreets we found one group of Burmese sheltering on the ground floor of an empty apartment block. The room was bare except for their thin mattresses. Their possessions were piled around them, but they seemed resigned to their fate. "I came here five days ago," one woman explained. "It's safer here. I was nervous when I crossed the border, but it's OK now."
Only one of them, a man in his twenties, said he had actually seen any fighting. "A Burmese military officer came to address a meeting in Kokang," he told us. "When he was giving his speech, fighting erupted. The Kokang army fired first."
All of them said fear of the violence was the reason they had crossed the border. "We are scared," said another woman, "It's war over there. We don't know what's going on. We saw other people run away so we just followed them." There were three generations here - old women, their daughters and their small children. They did not know how long they would have to stay, they said. The Chinese they had encountered - the police and others - had treated them well.
We found another woman sitting by the side of the road with her two small children. She too felt the Chinese had acted decently. "The border patrol officers helped me get my children into China," she said. "But I'm worried about my husband, he's still on the other side." She wanted to find a room for the night, rather than stay in the tents erected by China on the border, perhaps due to fears that in the days ahead the Chinese may start to put pressure on people to return.
As we moved on it was starting to rain. Every few minutes a police car passed by. There were large numbers of officers on patrol. That made it hard for us to move around freely - a state of emergency has been declared in the area which gives the police greater powers to stop journalists from reporting - so it's hard to say for certain just how well the authorities are coping.
(Reuters) "Fleeing fighters" stream into China from Myanmar. By Chris Buckley. August 30, 2009.
Groups of men who said they had been fighting Myanmar government troops in fierce battles over recent days streamed into China on Sunday, underlining the longer-term problems the conflict there could cause for China. The clusters of men, weary and sometimes clutching a few belongings, described continued bloodshed in the Kokang ethnic enclave in northeast Myanmar after government troops moved in, seeking to dislodge local rulers and their militia who have long controlled this mountainous terrain next to China.
Myanmar's offensive has thrown into question the future of the freewheeling Kokang buffer zone, where drug trafficking and gambling have long underpinned the economy. Newly arrived refugees said fighting continued in Kokang on Sunday.
Many of the fleeing men said they escaped on Saturday after the latest spasm of gunfights in Kokang, which is largely ethnic Chinese. Tens of thousands of people have already fled over the border to the town of Nansan in southwest China's Yunnan province and other refugee collection points.
"We're soldiers from the Kokang army. But we had to give up. The fighting was too much," said Xiong Zhaole, dressed in blue and walking, head bowed, with about six other men along a muddy mountain road near a border crossing. "We were trying to defend our people, but the Myanmar troops were pushing us back."
Xiong said he and his companions had been told by Chinese soldiers who received them at the border to swap their army greens for blue outfits, abandon any plans to fight and find somewhere to stay with relatives or in refugee camps. Another man who abandoned fighting the advancing Myanmar troops and fled to China said the battle had turned against the local militia. "We were humiliated by them," said Li Yingshu, a 25-year-old wearing the blue bodysuit given out by Chinese authorities. "We were not able to keep on fighting."
The battle erupted after the Myanmar military moved into the area as part of efforts to ensure ethnic groups participate in elections next year, according to reports by Chinese media and Myanmar exile groups. One of those groups, the U.S. Campaign for Burma, said in a statement early on Sunday that about 700 troops from the Kokang militia had fled to China and surrendered their weapons.
China is one of neighbor Myanmar's few diplomatic backers and has deflected pressure from Western governments over the military government's tough steps against protesters and pro-democracy campaigners. But the many thousands of refugees highlight the brittle balance Beijing has sought between working with the Myanmar government and accommodating the local forces who have long run Kokang.
"I think ultimately the future of Kokang will have to be solved through negotiations, not war," He Shengda, an expert on Myanmar at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, told Reuters. He cited the example of a 1989 ceasefire agreement over control of the enclave. "If the fighting continues, this could damage the stability of other, bigger border regions in Myanmar, and we certainly don't want to see that."
Many, but not all, of the refugees interviewed told Reuters they would be afraid to return home if the Myanmar army succeeds in putting the remote hill country under its control. That could make Beijing's balancing act more difficult, and leave it with many displaced and angry Myanmar nationals to cope with in this remote hill country. The Chinese government has not officially called them refugees.
"We want Chinese people to run us. We're scared of the Myanmar army and now they have the upper hand," said Li Deming, a native of Kokang who had tramped into Nansan, where thousands of refugees are now living in tents and half-completed buildings. Li said he would hesitate to return home if the Myanmar army routs the Kokang Group, which has ruled the area and is led by Peng Jiasheng, also known as Phone Kyar Shin. Other refugees said the Myanmar troops were ruthless marauders.
"We've heard of killings by the Myanmar army, of many people killed, and decided we had to escape," said Jiang Zhengchi, a 42-year-old native of Kokang who had fled to Nansan on Sunday. "If Myanmar takes control (of Kokang), I don't know if we can go back. But my land and everything are there. It's our land," he said as he finished a bowl of noodles next to a refugee camp.
China has called on Myanmar to maintain stability in the border region and urged further measures to protect the security and legal rights of Chinese citizens there. Not all the refugees thought the local Kokang militia deserved sympathy. Some described Kokang as a lawless place financed by gambling and drugs. "Kokang is run by warlords, and warlords and drugs are like twins, so that's how Kokang works," said one refugee in the main refugee camp in Nansan. He could not give his name, because the interview was interrupted by Chinese officials.
(Global Times) Myanmar conflict subsiding. By Qiu Yongzheng and Qiu Wei. August 31, 2009.
Military clashes between government forces and local troops in the restive Kokang area of northeastern Myanmar have driven more than 30,000 people across the Chinese border to Yunnan province for shelter since Thursday, Chinese officials said yesterday.
Some refugees began returning to their homes in Myanmar yesterday amid signs that the fighting had subsided, Meng Sutie, a senior Chinese official, said at a press conference in Kunming, capital of southwestern Yunnan province.
This was confirmed during a report late last night by State-run Myanmar Radio and Television, adding that a new "Kokang Region Provisional Leading Committee," operating under the central government, had been formed in Laukkai to restore order.
The committee said the fighting resulted in the deaths of 11 government soldiers, 15 police officers and eight Kokang ethnic army soldiers. Additionally, 34 soldiers and 13 police were injured.
Two Chinese citizens were also killed and 15 were injured during the conflict, Meng said. Three bombs that the government said exploded on the Chinese side caused one death, and the other took place in Myanmar. The statement didn't provide the victims' identities.
Meng Jianzhu, head of China's Ministry of Public Security, is in Yunnan to lead the efforts to keep order along the Myanmar border.
The conflict arose from confrontations between Myanmar government forces and an ethnic Chinese army in Kokang, which has been enjoying a high degree of autonomy since 1989.
The wife of Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin, also known as Peng Jiasheng, told the Global Times yesterday that the Kokang leader was safe and staying with his family. She did not give his location, but sources close to Peng told the Global Times that he has been in the Nandeng area of the Shan state since Wednesday.
Peng told the Global Times in an exclusive interview Saturday that he would fight on and not surrender, despite Myanmar central authorities putting him on a most-wanted list. Earlier rumors had suggested that he had surrendered to the central government. Peng also admitted that he regretted having signed a peace treaty with the Myanmar government. "The central government has broken its promises," he said.
The renewed conflict began after Government troops moved into the Kokang capital of Laukkai on August 8. Raids were conducted at the home of Phone Kyar Shin, the former leader of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and at an arms factory, on suspicion of producing drugs.
The resulting infighting has triggered a large outflow of border inhabitants into Yunnan.
The MNDAA signed a ceasefire agreement with the government on March 31, 1989, but was allowed to retain arms and enjoy self-administration.
Peng expressed satisfaction at the economic development of Kokang in the past year. "My policies designed to foster the development of Kokang included banning drug trafficking, pursuing peaceful development and stressing economic construction," Peng said.
Calls to the Myanmar embassy in Beijing seeking the country's official stance went unanswered yesterday.
A Global Times reporter who arrived Saturday morning at the Nansan township bordering Kokang heard gunshots and mortar explosions coming from the Myanmar side. "It was a fierce battle," an 18-year-old alliance army fighter named Luo Song, who fled to Nansan, told the Global Times. "Three were killed and five others were wounded on our side."
As of yesterday, government troops had taken control of Yanglongzhai, according to sources close to Peng.
Entering Kokang on Saturday afternoon, the Global Times reporter found that several of the restaurants, jewelry stores and fruit stores had been looted. Many of the stores are owned by Chinese. The looting, Luo said, stopped Friday when police were dispatched to maintain order.
A Chinese Internet café owner in Kokang, surnamed Zhang, who fled to Yunnan, told the Global Times that the fighting almost ruined his business there. "My newly refurbished Internet café was the biggest in Kokang. The equipment and three of my cars are worth as much as 1 million yuan," Zhang said.
"The provincial government has supplied accommodations, food and medical treatment to those who fled the conflict," said Meng, of the Yunnan government. The humanitarian aid, he said, included more than 1,000 tents, 10 million yuan worth of food and drinking water, and medical aid.
"I want to return home, but it is impossible. Horrible! Water and electricity supplies were all cut off there," a Kokang girl surnamed Zi told the China News Agency. She had fled her home and crossed the border to seek shelter in Zhenkang, Yunnan.
Myanmar has apologized for Chinese casualties in the incident, thanked the Chinese government for its friendly treatment of Myanmar residents, and promised to protect the safety and legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar, according to the foreign affairs office of Yunnan.
(The Irrawaddy) Laogai is a silent capital. September 1, 2009.
Supermarkets, gambling casinos, street shops and fresh food markets are silent since Laogai, the Kokang capital, fell to junta troops on Aug. 24.
A merchant in the city who asked for anonymity said most daily businesses have not reopened because the city is still under the control of the regime’s soldiers. “There are about 10 gambling casinos in Laogai,” he said. “None of the casinos reopened, and supermarkets are still closed.”
Several sources on the Sino-Burmese border said government soldiers who occupied Laogai have looted commodities in some stores owned by Kokang businessmen.
An estimated 30,000 Laogai residents fled to China when shooting between Kokang soldiers and government troops broke out when Kokang troops tried to retake the territory they had abandoned earlier in the week. “It is impossible to reopen the businesses as long as the government troops control the city,” said the merchant.
An estimated 90 percent of businesses in Laogai are controlled by Chinese businessmen who immigrated to Burma for business opportunities, sources said. Some Chinese businessmen in nearby areas controlled by another ceasefire militia, the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) also known as the Mong La group, have also reportedly left the area in fear of more clashes.
The Burmese regime and Chinese authorities have asked Kokang refugees to return home. Many returned on Monday to protect their businesses and homes, but they have yet to reopen, said the businessman.
A businessman in Mandalay said some commercial trucks that carry commodities from the Sino-Burmese border to Mandalay have been ordered to carry military supplies for government troops to Longai. As a result, he said he has stopped sending his trucks on their normal runs.
Khin Maung Nyo, a Rangoon-based Burmese economic analyst, said the conflict in Kokang territory will hurt local border trade temporarily, but Laogai is not among the major points of border trade with China.
(Shan Herald) Kokang source: Struggle continues. September 2, 2009.
A source from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), better known as the Kokang army, says his group is still fighting in southern Kokang bordering with its Wa ally.
The down-sized armed group is led by Peng Daxun, Peng Jiasheng’s son. “He is still very active in the area stretching from Kunlong to Qingsuihe,” he says. “Proof? What more proof do you need when the Burma Army hasn’t been able to evacuate over 100 aid workers and their family members out of Laogai yesterday.” The road from Laogai passes through Qingsuihe in the southeast and goes westward to Kunlong. The said aid workers are from World Food Program (WFP), JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and several NGOs, he says. His report has yet to be confirmed independently.
In the meanwhile, about 4,000 refugees have returned home on Monday, 31 August, reported AP. “The border situation is returning to normal,” agencies report China’s Public Security Ministry as saying.
On the same day, some senior Burmese officers were reported to be visiting Mongla. “They explained to us that what happened in Kokang was an internal affair, where the Burma Army had tried in vain to mediate,” a source close to Mongla, one of Kokang’s principal ally, quoted an officer as saying, “ Of course, they think we’re stupid.”
The junta officers, coming from Kengtung, 80 km southwest of Mongla and the capital of Shan State East, also inquired about their 3 officers believed to be missing in the Hsaleu territory under the control of Mongla. The three were said to be from Infantry Battalion 279 based in Mongyang, near Hsaleu, where Mongla’s 369th Brigade is headquartered. “Only one of them, a sergeant returned,” according to the Burmese officers.
Mongla had earlier deported more than 470 Burmans suspected of spying.
The National Democratic Alliance Army – Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), as the Mongla group calls itself, believes it is next on the Burma Army’s hit list after Kokang. The group’s leader Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian is Kokang supreme leader Peng Jiasheng’s son-in-law.
The United Wa State Army (UWSA), wedged between Kokang in the north and Mongla in the south, might be the next to go, according to some analysts.
However, Sao Yawdserk, leader of anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) South, saw it differently. During an interview with Thai PBS Television yesterday, he said he believed No. 1 on the list would be Mongla followed by Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and UWSA. “We (the SSA) will be the last,” he told Thai PBS.
(The Irrawaddy) Peng Jiasheng breaks his silence. September 14, 2009.
The ousted Kokang leader, Peng Jiasheng, has told The Irrawaddy that the Burmese military government attack on his headquarters in Laogai was an attempt by the junta to eliminate the Kokang and other armed ethnic groups and achieve a military-run “unified” country.
In his first interview since the fall of Laogai on August 24 and the subsequent exodus of more than 30,000 refugees to China, Peng claimed the Burmese government troops have killed and raped civilians, and have looted houses and shops in Laogai.
“Many people are still afraid to go back home,” he said. “Most of the shops owned by Chinese businessmen have either been destroyed or looted. This is a calamity. The prosperous town we had a few months ago no longer exists. People are living in deep distress.”
Last month, in a surprise move, the military regime broke its ceasefire with several ethnic groups by seizing the Kokang capital.
Since the attack, instability has been reverberating throughout Kachin and Shan states and the towns along the Sino-Burmese border in China’s Yunnan Province.
Other ceasefire groups in northern and northeastern Burma—in particular, the United Wa State Army, the Kachin Independence Army and the National Democratic Alliance Army—have been digging in and building defenses against a potential attack by junta forces.
During the attack on Laogai, the regime said that it was searching for illegal drugs and weapons.
During a press briefing last week, Burma's Deputy Home Affairs Minister Brig-Gen Phone Swe said that government troops had seized a weapons factory near the Chinese border on August 8 after being informed about it during a ministerial meeting with China on combating transnational crime.
The junta earlier said the ethnic Kokang militia raided a police checkpoint and took 39 police officers hostage. Fifteen officers were later killed, leading to full-scale fighting that state media say left 11 soldiers and eight militia members dead.
In response to the regime’s allegations that the Kokang leader was running an illegal weapons factory, Peng told The Irrawaddy: “Many of our weapons need repairing. It is reasonable to have a weapons-repair factory. This factory was well-known to all the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] officials in Kokang. They have visited it before. Now they are using it as an excuse to take action against us.
“The Burmese national army is the strongest force in the country. They can crack down on whichever ethnic groups they want. They can accuse any ceasefire group of drugs or weapons or anything.”
Despite a reputation for being one of the most prominent drug traffickers in the region, Peng hit back at Naypyidaw saying there is no poppy cultivation in any of the special regions of Shan State, and that investigations by international agencies have confirmed this.
“In SPDC-controlled areas, there are more than 250,000 mu [Chinese land unit, equivalent to 667 square meters] of cultivated poppy. This is the practice of the junta, and this is how they behave,” he said.