January 19, 2015 / 5:23 AM / 3 years ago

Fighting traps hundreds of Chinese nationals in Myanmar: Global Times

BEIJING (Reuters) - Hundreds of Chinese citizens, including miners and jade traders, are among 2,000 civilians trapped by fighting between government troops and insurgents in northern Myanmar, China’s state-backed Global Times reported on Monday.

The Chinese nationals and Myanmar civilians are trapped in the northern state of Kachin, which borders southern China, where the Myanmar military has been battling the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) for years, the newspaper said.

It cited an unidentified intelligence official for a Myanmar rebel group, although the group also was not specified.

The Chinese nationals included jade dealers, gold miners and lumberjacks, the paper said. There is an open-pit mine in the Kachin town of Hpakant, the largest source of Myanmar jade.

The trapped people have limited food and water and no medical supplies, a rebel intelligence official told the Global Times.

China is working to verify the situation in northern Myanmar, said Hong Lei, a spokesman for its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No Chinese nationals had sought assistance, a Chinese consular official told a state television reporter on Monday.

Officials from ethnic armed groups told the Global Times they would let the Chinese go home “if conditions allow”.

Myanmar has beefed up its military presence at the Kambaiti Pass, on the border with China, in a bid to curb illegal cross-border traffic, the paper said.

That could cut off passage for Chinese nationals without the documents to return home, the Global Times said, quoting unidentified sources. Some of them had gone into hiding in homes and forests nearby, it added.

The area is known for a flourishing illegal trade in jade, much of it smuggled over the border into China.

In Myanmar, peace talks between rebel groups and the semi-civilian government that took over in 2011 after nearly 50 years of military rule ended last September without agreement.

The KIA took up arms in 1961 and is the second-largest of about 20 ethnic armed groups in Myanmar.

Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Paul Tait

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