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Stray artillery shells landed on Chinese territory on Thursday evening causing injuries to five civilians, as conflict intensifies near the China-Burma border between Burmese government forces and Kokang rebels of the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
It is as yet unclear which side is responsible for the errant shells, though it is known that Burmese units have launched artillery attacks on Kokang outposts in the nearby hills.
Local residents living in the border town of Nansan, just five kilometres from the Kokang capital, Laogai [also spelt Laukkai or Laukkaing], told DVB on Friday that two stray shells coming from the Nan Tien Men hills across the border hit the neighbourhood of Wen Min Xin on Thursday at around 8:30pm, local time.
Lincang district officials confirmed that one local Chinese resident and four Burmese nationals were injured and taken to a local public hospital, while three cars and four homes were also damaged by the shelling.
A local school teacher, Wang Haiyan, said that one shell fell right through the roof of a local restaurant. She said the battle between Burmese and Kokang forces was continuing as of Friday morning. “We can still hear the sound of gunfire this morning,” said Wang. “We are too afraid to go outside.”
The Beijing News has reported that Zhenkang People’s Hospital in Nansan received five persons injured by artillery shells. It said one man had sustained wounds to his neck while another had taken a fragment in his forehead. Although the injuries were described as “serious”, neither were life-threatening, the report said. Another two women and one man were slightly injured.
The neighbourhood of Wen Min Xin is densely populated, and is located opposite a shelter that is temporarily housing hundreds of Kokang families who have fled their war-torn homeland.
Thursday’s incident marks the second occasion when the conflict in northern Burma has spilled over onto Chinese soil, following an errant airstrike by Burmese forces on 8 March which peppered a Yunnanese village with four bombs, killing five local farmers. China responded by scrambling fighter jets along the border, and issued a strongly worded statement expressing “grave concern” to its Burmese counterparts.
While the Burmese military has this week reported details of a successful campaign further north at Mar Lu Shwe, where it claims its units captured three Kokang outposts, it has made no mention of the clashes at Nan Tien Men.
It has also been reported to DVB that Burmese soldiers arrested three volunteer Chinese teachers accused of being spies for the Kokang militia.
In a regular press conference on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said Beijing “expresses strong dissatisfaction” over the stray bombs incident.
“We are still investigating the case,” said Hua, adding that China “reserves the right to make further reactions based on its conclusions.”
Hua added: “China solemnly urges Myanmar to take effective measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again, and to urge all parties concerned to calm the situation as soon as possible and restore peace and stability in northern Burma.”