Myanmar leaders urge rebels to abandon armed attacks

Posted March 10, 2017

More than 20,000 people from Myanmar have flooded into border camps in neighbouring China, seeking refuge from bitter fighting between ethnic groups and security forces in the country's north, China said on Thursday.

Another estimated 20,000 people remain internally displaced in Rakhine state in the west because of inter-communal and military conflicts with Rohingya Muslims that the United Nations has said constitutes the "likely commission of crimes against humanity".

Yang compared the scenes to those in 2015, when tens of thousands escaped fighting between the army and the predominantly ethnic Chinese Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) - the same group that attacked on Monday.

A separate group of fighters later attacked locations in the main town.

During the 2015 conflicts, almost 50 soldiers died, while tens of thousands fled across the border to China's southern province of Yunnan.

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China called for an immediate ceasefire between the two sides on Tuesday, urging them to resolve their differences through peaceful means.

In an official statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang said, "Parties concerned should stop fighting immediately so as to prevent the situation from getting worse, and restore normal order in the border areas as soon as possible".

"Access to displaced people in Non-Government Controlled Areas is severely restricted for worldwide organizations", the update said. "We do not know exact figures yet".

The latest clashes are in northeastern Shan state, which has seen repeated bouts of heavy fighting between the army and a band of well-armed ethnic minority militias since November, undercutting a government peace bid.

"According to initial information, many innocent civilians including a primary school teacher. were killed because of attacks by the MNDAA armed group", the office of Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said in a statement.

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The attack came after the Nobel Peace Prize victor met a delegation of ethnic armed groups last week to convince them to participate in a major peace conference.

The military said it recovered 20 charred bodies it says belonged to fallen insurgents. But Beijing also bared its teeth after Myanmar's bombs landed in Chinese territory and killed five people.

An army source told AFP fighting was continuing as darkness fell.

MNDAA is a part of the Northern Alliance coalition of rebel groups comprising one of Myanmar's most powerful militias, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and two smaller groups caught in a stand-off with the military since 2015 clashes in the region.

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