New Myanmar clashes leave one dead, scores injured

BEIJING: Fresh fighting erupted today in northeastern Myanmar after days of clashes between government troops and ethnic rebels drove tens of thousands of people into China, and a bomb tossed across the border killed one person and injured others.

Up to 30,000 people have fled into China from Myanmar’s Kokang region, according to reports received by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The fighting near the border has threatened communist China’s goal of stability ahead of the sensitive October 1 celebration of its 60th anniversary. It also could strain China’s close relationship with Myanmar’s military junta. Already, China has told Myanmar to stop the fighting.

Tensions have spilled over into China as the junta tried to consolidate control over several armed ethnic groups along its borders to ensure that next year’s national elections, the first in nearly 20 years, go smoothly. The ethnic groups are wary of a plan to team up rebels with the military as border guards, which they fear will erode their relative independence.

At least 25 people had been admitted to Zhenkang County People’s Hospital for injuries related to the fighting as of today, said a hospital official who refused to give her name. Most of the patients are ethnic Chinese from Myanmar, she said.

One person was killed and several were injured when a bomb was thrown across the border into China, He Yangchun, a Yunnan province Red Cross official, told the English-language China Daily. No other details were given. Calls to the Red Cross and local government officials rang unanswered Saturday.

Heavy fighting resumed this morning, said a staffer at the Zhenkang County Public Security Bureau.

“It seems that gunfire and artillery fire this morning is stronger than last night. Last night, it almost stopped and was pretty quiet. But this morning, at 7 or 8 am, the gunfire and shelling restarted. I can still hear the shooting right now,” he said.

The provincial Yunnan government has said about 10,000 people from Myanmar’s Kokang region - an area with many ethnic Chinese in northern Shan state - have crossed into China, and Chinese authorities are housing some in seven camps in and near the border town of Nansan.

The UNHCR said the numbers could be much higher. “As many as 30,000 people may have taken shelter in Nansan since August 8, saying they were fleeing fighting between Myanmar government troops and ethnic minority groups,” said UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic.