- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009


Lin Jinhua was making an excellent living selling and repairing motorcycles until a few weeks ago. Now she’s a refugee. A Chinese expatriate businesswoman living across the border in Myanmar, Mrs. Lin, 58, was forced to flee late last month when troops sent by Myanmar’s military junta attacked her village in its campaign to crush an ethnic Chinese militia in the Kokang region of northeastern Myanmar bordering China’s Yunnan province.

Mrs. Lin, who fled with just a few possessions and the clothes on her back, returned home after the attack to survey the damage. Both her house and her motorcycle business were looted, she said, and she lost up to $73,000 in merchandise.

“The Burmese troops took everything away,” said Mrs. Lin, trying to control her anger. “Who is going to compensate us for this? Will the Chinese government? Will the Burmese government?”

Mrs. Lin, along with her husband and two other couples who worked at her business, are now sharing a small apartment in the nearby county of Mengding. Interviewed earlier this month, they were trying to figure out what to do next. They said they were too afraid to return home and had nothing to go back for.

About 37,000 people initially fled the fighting in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma. While many have returned, a number have remained including ethnic Chinese such as Mrs. Lin, soldiers from the shattered ethnic militia and Burmese afraid that fighting will start again soon.

Zeng Guanyou, 38, one of Mrs. Lin’s workers, expressed a common view here when he said he expects the Myanmar military to attack the United Wa State Army, a militia of between 20,000 and 30,000 soldiers whose territory begins just across the river from Qingshui.

Zhen Wei, 32, another refugee now living in a small garage in Qingshui Town with his wife and three children, said he also thinks the fight against the Wa will start very soon.

“We are worried about more fighting, but we don’t really know when it will happen,” Mr. Zhen said.

Members of a smaller defeated militia, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), are also predicting a new and bigger fight.

Asked what he will do next, Su Bao Bao, the former office director at the headquarters of the MNDAA, said he would likely go to the Wa region and prepare to fight again.

“There is news that the Wa State Army is preparing to fight, but whether that will happen depends on the Burmese government,” said Mr. Su. “If [the Burmese military] fires first, there will be a battle.”

He spoke from the city of Nansan, where a large number of refugees crossed over in late August and a few remain scattered around the region staying with relatives and friends.

Mr. Su, 58, said he crossed into China on Aug. 29 with around 1,000 other soldiers after they ditched their weapons and put on civilian clothes.

Mr. Su, an ethnic Kachin who also goes by the name of Bo Bo, said the first clashes started Aug. 8. Three days later, the militia withdrew to a place called Xi’e in the Kokang region.

On Aug. 12 Myanmar’s army attacked a militia military school in town of Laogai and took over a weapons factory the government said was producing drugs, something that Mr. Su said was propaganda.

The Myanmar military put out an arrest warrant for Peng Jiasheng, the leader of the Kokang region, as well as for his three sons, and established a new government in Kokang under the leadership of a rival faction within the militia, Mr. Su said. Mr. Peng fled to the Wa-controlled areas, and is now reportedly being protected by the United Wa State Army.

Mr. Su said major fighting began Aug. 26 and lasted five days. The militia forces split, with the majority dropping their weapons and crossing the border into China at Nansan, while perhaps 800 more crossed near the Qingshui border crossing, he said.

“The Burmese government was trying to eliminate the threat posed by the ethnic militia by forcing them to come under the control of the border security guard forces, which will be controlled by the Burmese government,” Mr. Su said. “But the alliance didn’t agree with that. The reason why the Burmese government did this is to strengthen power before next year’s election.”

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