LASHIO, Myanmar (AFP) – Civilians fleeing bloody clashes between troops and ethnic rebels in northeast Myanmar on Wednesday described crouching in terror as a hail of bullets flew around them in an attack on a local aid convoy that wounded two people.
Around a hundred people came under fire as they travelled in Myanmar Red Cross trucks in a desperate dash from their homes in Kokang region in Shan state, which has been consumed by deadly fighting.
Myanmar has declared a state of emergency in the region in response to the conflict that has caused tens of thousands to flee their homes, mainly across the border into China – sparking alarm in Beijing.
“It was a miracle we weren’t hit. We were crouched low in the truck. The driver was hit and there was so much blood,” Maung Ying told AFP in the Shan town of Lashio after Tuesday’s attack on aid vehicles, which were marked with Red Cross flags.
“They were shooting from the mountains on both sides of the road. I thought I was going to die, bullets were passing just over our heads,” he said, adding the ordeal in broad daylight lasted for an hour. The 35-year-old said he had been working in a sugar cane plantation north of the region’s main town Laukkai, which has become the epicentre for fierce fighting since rebel attacks launched last week.
The convoy had passed the town and was heading south when the assault happened, with dramatic pictures from the incident showing journalists who were travelling with the trucks helping to carry the wounded as they came under fire. It was unclear who was responsible for the attack. The convoy was organised by a local aid group separate from the better known International Committee of the Red Cross.
The chief of Lashio police, San Yu, told AFP that one person sustained a gunshot wound to the stomach, while another had suffered cuts to his eye from broken glass. The attack was the latest to target civilians in the area, after a Lashio official said another truck came under fire Tuesday morning, killing one civilian and leaving another wounded.