March 7, 2015 / 5:33 AM / in 3 years

China border province says did not host Myanmar rebel leader

BEIJING (Reuters) - The government of the Chinese border province of Yunnan has not played host to an ethnic Chinese Myanmar rebel leader and does not support him in fighting Myanmar’s government, the province’s top official said on Saturday.

Myanmar has accused Chinese mercenaries of fighting with the rebels, and has urged China to cooperate to prevent “terrorist attacks” being launched from Chinese territory.

A rebel force known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (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 Kokang region in a conflict that pushed tens of thousands of refugees into Yunnan.

Peng is believed to have then fled into exile in China, and analysts think his recent return to Kokang is the cause of the latest fighting.

Yunnan’s Communist Party boss Li Jiheng told reporters on the sidelines of a parliament meeting in Beijing that stability on the border was in the province’s interest.

“China has always respected Myanmar’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Li said.

Peng and his group have generated public sympathy in China because they are ethnic Chinese, fuelling suspicion he enjoys a level of government support, especially in Yunnan.

“We oppose any fighting that causes trouble for the people on Yunnan’s border,” Li said, pointing out that some 60,000 people had fled into Yunnan since the fighting begun.

“We certainly do not support Peng Jiasheng to oppose the government with force of arms. We have never supported any armed force to oppose the Myanmar government. We hope the Myanmar government and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army have peace talks.”

Asked whether Peng has been living in Yunnan since 2009 until his return to Kokang this year, Li said: “This wording is not appropriate”.

“I have always paid a lot of attention to border security and our country’s territorial integrity and the people’s welfare. I’ve not discovered that he had been here all along.”

“I can tell you very responsibly we have never hosted Mr Peng,” Li said, without elaborating on where Peng might have been.

The government had not discovered any Chinese citizens crossing the border to fight alongside Peng, he added.

China has watched the fighting with alarm and has called on Myanmar to “lower the temperature” on the border.

Editing by Robert Birsel

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