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Myanmar, Rebels Exchange Fire, Accusations

FILE - Myanmar army soldiers walk along a road near Laukkai, Feb. 17, 2015.

FILE - Myanmar army soldiers walk along a road near Laukkai, Feb. 17, 2015.

Myanmar's government and Kokang rebels are again trading accusations of attacks on aid workers as the two sides continue fierce fighting near the border with China.

Two rebel fighters were wounded Monday in clashes east of the town of Laukkai, according to Kokang spokesman Htun Myat Lin.

"They bombed by air and attacked from the ground east of Laukkai. They attacked with artillery and ground assault. They used airstrikes and much manpower," he said.

But in an interview with VOA's Burmese service, he again denied government allegations that Kokang forces recently attacked a Red Cross truck carrying refugees and journalists.

Five people were wounded in the attack, which is the second time a Red Cross vehicle has been hit in the past week.

In addition to the Red Cross attack, Lt. General Mya Htun Oo, chief of military affairs security, has accused the rebels of using Chinese mercenaries.

"We learned that they threaten locals not to talk to media about the ground situations," he said. "Among those captured, eight Chinese surrendered. After questioning them, we can conclude that they use former Chinese soldiers recruited as mercenaries."

The rebels have denied the allegation, which comes as civilians in the region continue to flee the fighting, which has killed at least 130.

Chinese state media has estimated that more than 30,000 Myanmar residents have fled across the border into China's Yunnan province, prompting Beijing to ramp up border controls and call for calm in the region.

The Kokang are an ethnic Chinese minority who live in a formerly autonomous area near the Chinese border. Last week, Myanmar President Thein Sein announced a three-month period of martial law in Kokang, giving the army executive and judicial powers in the designated region.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.