BANGKOK— Burma's Kachin Independence Army says three civilian have been killed in artillery strikes, as fighting between ethnic rebels and government forces continued Monday.
Some 15,000 displaced people have found shelter in the Laiza settlement in northern Burma since the conflict started 18 months ago. In recent weeks, Laiza itself has become a war zone, as Burmese troops use air power and artillery to strike at the rebel stronghold.
The fighting has come near the Chinese border, and rebels say some Burmese military artillery has hit Chinese territory. China’s Global Times newspaper reported Monday that authorities in nearby Chinese villages are preparing for an influx of as many as 10,000 refugees.
La Rip, the coordinator of the Kachin refugee agency, says there has been no communication with any Chinese officials about moving people displaced by violence.
"They should be expecting the refugees on that side," he said. "But I do not know if they have an intention to welcome them or settle the refugees in China. But I don't really see or I don't really hear how they are preparing and how they are ready to welcome the refugees."
Last August, Chinese officials pushed back tens of thousands of Kachin refugees who had been seeking safety in China. At a news conference Monday, Chinese foreign minister Hong Lei neither confirmed nor denied China's intention to receive refugees.
He says he hopes the Burmese government can ease tension through peaceful negotiations with relevant parties, prevent conflicts from escalating and properly resolve disputes. He says China has taken necessary measures to enhance border control to protect the safety of Chinese citizens and their properties at the border.
Since the beginning of the conflict, border trade has plummeted, compromising the local Yunnan economy.
While peace talks between the government and the Kachin are still ongoing, there are many who doubt that they will be able to forge an agreement. Burma analyst Bertil Lintner says the peace process is already disingenuous, because violent attacks have continued throughout the negotiations.
"There is no real peace process. What they're talking about is ceasefires and ceasefire without a political solution does not mean peac," said Lintner. "A ceasefire would just freeze the problem and then postpone any sort of solution to the future. But the Chinese are of course worried about instability on the southern frontier."
Burmese President Thein Sein, who has been lauded for his reform efforts, praised the military for their contributions to the peace process in state media on Friday, despite ongoing reports of civilian casualties. The United States and other western nations have expressed concern about the war and urged all side to engage in the peace talks.