YANGON (Reuters) - China should cooperate with Myanmar to prevent “terrorist attacks” being launched from Chinese territory, a Myanmar official said on Thursday after 10 days of fighting between the Myanmar military and insurgents.
Fighting broke out on Feb. 9 between the army and a rebel force in the Kokang region of northeast Myanmar, on the border with China, called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
At least 50 government soldiers and 27 rebels have been killed, according to state media.
The fighting has forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, and about 30,000 of them have fled into China.
China has called for peace and said it supported efforts to resolve the conflict so refugees could go home.
The foreign ministers of both countries met on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, Hmuu Zaw, an official from the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein, said in a Facebook post.
“It is necessary to cooperate ... on the understanding that terrorist attacks on Myanmar are not allowed from Chinese territory,” Hmuu Zaw said.
Officials at China’s embassy in Myanmar were not available for comment.
The MNDAA emerged from the remnants of the Communist Party of Burma, a powerful Chinese-backed guerrilla force that battled the Myanmar government before splintering in 1989.
Led by ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng, the MNDAA struck a truce with the government which lasted until 2009, when government troops took over their region in a conflict that pushed tens of thousands of refugees into China.
Peng’s recent return is seen at the root of the new fighting.
“In 2009, Peng was driven out of Kokang, and now he’s back,” said Bertil Lintner, an author and expert on the region. Hmuu Zaw suggested that China could do more.
“The border stability and security that China is worried about would be restored immediately if Pen Jiasheng and accomplices were detained and transferred to the Myanmar government if they happened to be China,” he said.
The clashes area a setback for government efforts to forge a nationwide ceasefire and end a patchwork of insurgencies that have bedeviled Myanmar since its independence in 1948.
The state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Thursday that three other groups, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Kachin Independence Army and a faction of the Shan State Army, had joined attacks on the military this week.
Salai T Hei, an official in an alliance of minority factions discussing the nationwide ceasefire, said the government should negotiate with the MNDAA.
(This story has been refiled to add dropped letter in name Peng in paragraph 10)
Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Robert Birsel