Myanmar says ethnic rebels stage raid on northeastern town

China said Thursday that clashes between the Myanmar army and ethnic minorities in recent weeks have led to more than 20,000 people from northwestern Myanmar crossing into Chinese territory.

On the Myanmar side of the border, some 300 people were waiting to be transferred to a camp for internally displaced people in the town of Chinshwehaw near Laukkai, said Saw Shwe Myint, an official from the Myanmar Red Cross in Laukkai. A separate group of fighters later attacked other sites in Laukkai.

The MNDAA attack on Laukkai-the first in the town since a large offensive in February 2015-killed at least five policemen and five local residents and sent thousands fleeing across the border to China.

"The situation in northern Myanmar relates to the peace and tranquillity of the China-Myanmar border", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

"With this attack, we taught a lesson to the Tatmadaw who have destroyed peace in the Union for over half a century", said the statement.

"According to initial information, many innocent civilians including a primary school teacher ... were killed because of attacks by the MNDAA armed group", the state counselor's office said in statement posted on Facebook, according to Agence France-Presse. "Parties concerned should stay committed to peacefully resolving their differences through dialogue and consultation".

A photo given to the media last November shows female fighters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is involved in the anti-government attacks along with the, Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

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"Almost all residents from Laukkai town are fleeing", said Brigadier General Nyo Tun Aung from the Arakan Army (AA).

But fighting has surged since past year as the army clashes with several different ethnic armed groups, undermining a government bid to forge peace.

The attack follows on the heels of a meeting last week where the country's Nobel laureate de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged a delegation of ethnic armed groups to sign a cease-fire agreement and participate in peace talks.

The clashes are some of the worst to break out in the Chinese-speaking Kokang region since fighting in 2015 left scores dead and forced tens of thousands to flee across the border into China.

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

The worsening conflict in the borderlands has raised tensions between Myanmar and Beijing.

It added that a further 20 "burned bodies" had been found alongside weapons.

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  • Regina Walsh