LASHIO, MYANMAR, (AFP) – Myanmar on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in a conflict-torn border region, where ferocious fighting between the army and ethnic rebels has sent thousands fleeing airstrikes and fierce gun battles.
Civilians have come under fire in the deadly clashes between the army and Kokang rebels in Shan state, local officials said, in fighting that has uprooted tens of thousands in the past week and sent a flood of refugees into China, which has voiced alarm over the escalating bloodshed.
“A serious situation has developed that has put people’s lives at risk, so a state of emergency has been de clared starting from today,” the ministry of information said in a statement outlining the measures in the Kokang region of Shan state, where conflict has raged since February 9.
In a separate announcement it said Myanmar’s army chief was in full control of “rule of law and stability” in the area.
Sai Shwe Win, an official with the Lashio fire department, said dozens of civilians crammed into a truck came under attack as they tried to escape fighting in the area Tuesday morning, with one killed and another injured.
A monastery in the Shan town of Lashio, some 140 kilometres (85 miles) south of the conflict zone, has become a temporary shelter for thousands who have fled the violence, most with little more than a few plastic bags of belongings.
On the Chinese side Beijing says it has stepped up border controls after some 30,000 fled into its Yunnan province.
Streams of civilians continued to arrive late into Tuesday night, bringing reports of continued heavy clashes in the remote hills along the frontier.
One 40-year-old woman, looking haggard and exhausted after fleeing the violence with her three-year-old son on Tuesday, said she had heard gunfire as the family made their escape.