China has lodged diplomatic protests and scrambled fighter jets to the border with neighbouring Myanmar after a bomb from a Burmese warplane killed four people in China’s south-western Yunnan province on Friday.
Myanmar’s government forces are fighting armed rebels and supporters of the Kokang people, a Mandarin-speaking ethnic Chinese minority, in the country’s northern Shan state. The renewed conflict has displaced tens of thousands of people in recent weeks, many fleeing across the porous 2000-kilometre border into mainland China.
State media said the bomb hit a sugarcane field in the Chinese border city of Lincang, killing four and injuring nine. It follows another incident last week where a stray bomb hit a civilian home in Yunnan province, but which did not result in any casualties.
Liu Zhenmin, a Chinese vice-minister for foreign affairs, summoned Myanmar ambassador Thit Linn Ohn in Beijing on Friday to condemn the killings of civilians and the intrusion into Chinese territory, according to a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry.
“We urge the Myanmar side to thoroughly investigate the incident and report the findings to the Chinese side, and to sternly punish the perpetrator,” Mr Liu said, according to official news agency Xinhua.
Shen Jinke, spokesman for the air force of China‘s People’s Liberation Army, said China sent several warplanes to disperse the low-flying Myanmar planes approaching the Chinese border, adding that Beijing would tighten the monitoring of airspace over the border.
The fighting in Kokang is the bloodiest Myanmar has seen for years, and as well as having the potential to undermine the country’s ceasefire negotiations, it threatens to complicate already testy ties between Naypyidaw and Beijing.
The Myanmar government blames the renewed ethnic fighting on a renegade rebel faction led by the militia’s octogenarian leader, Pheung Kya-shin (also known by his Chinese name Peng Jiasheng), and of local Yunnan provincial officials allowing the rebels to use Chinese territory to outflank government troops. Myanmar officials also accuse China of arming and financing the Kokang militia.
Beijing has denied any links with the ethnic Chinese rebels in Myanmar, saying it respects Myanmar’s sovereignty, while Peng, the Kokang rebel leader, has also denied receiving any assistance.
China’s government had tried to distance itself from the conflict, with an editorial in the state-run Global Times warning people to “avoid any premature stance of interference” in Myanmar affairs.
But the news of Chinese casualties has received prominent media coverage in China, testing the limits of the country’s non-interference policy if a wave of nationalist sentiment against Myanmar is allowed to rise.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald – China scrambles jets after Myanmar bomb kills four people in Yunnan province
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