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China pressing ahead with bridge building despite land dispute, say Namhkam locals

Shan locals protest as a Chinese flag flutters on disputed land in the background, 3 April 2015. (PHOTO: DVB)

Some 500 residents turned out on Friday in the town of Namhkam in northern Shan State to protest the visit of Chinese officials from across the common border. Locals say they are demonstrating against the raising of People’s Republic of China flags on a stretch of disputed land.

Sai Tun Hlaing, the secretary of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), said Chinese officials informed their Burmese counterparts in Namhkam that a delegation of officials would visit on Friday to conduct land measurements for a bridge which is slated to be constructed across the Ruili River.

“At around 8am, the Chinese authorities and an entourage of soldiers came to measure land for the construction of a bridge across the river,” he said. “They would have come whether Burmese officials had approved it or not.”

He said that around 500 residents from the villages of Kontha, Sehai and Manawng had travelled to Namhkam to stage a protest and voice their concerns about losing their farmland to the project.

Sai Aung Win, an SNDP official in Namhkam, said the Muse District administrator had personally handed over a letter of objection to his Chinese counterparts.

“The Muse administrator gave them a letter stating that no project could go ahead until a demarcation line had been agreed at the border,’ he said, adding that the Chinese team was about 20-strong, including soldiers.