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China to hold fire drills along Myanmar border

BEIJING: China’s military will hold land and air live fire drills along a part of the border with Myanmar where shells have fallen during fighting between the Myanmar government and ethnic Chinese rebels, the Defence Ministry said on Monday.

China has been angered by repeated incidents of shells or bombs from the fighting falling in Chinese territory, in which at least five Chinese have died, and thousands of refugees have crossed into China’s southwestern province of Yunnan to escape the clashes.

The Chinese military’s drills will begin on Tuesday, the Defence Ministry said, and take place in two Yunnan counties which lie right next to Myanmar’s Kokang region.

China had informed Myanmar about the drills, it said.

The drills will not affect the normal lives of residents, though they will have to follow instructions on which parts of the county will be off limits, the ministry said, adding that the end of the exercises would be announced later.

Myanmar’s parliament last month extended martial law for three months in the Kokang region.

China has repeatedly demanded that Myanmar take greater steps to prevent fighting from spilling over to its side of the border.

Myanmar government soldiers have been battling rebels who were dug in as close as 500 meters (yards) from the border area, Myanmar’s Information Ministry said in April.

The main rebel group in Kokang is called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), which is led by ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng.

The MNDAA was formed from remnants of the Communist Party of Burma, a powerful China-backed guerrilla force that battled the Myanmar government until it splintered in 1989.

The group 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’s Yunnan province.

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