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Myanmar Denies Shelling Kachin Civilians
Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/1248068/1/.html
Source Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Focus: Information Access, E-Participation
Country: Myanmar
Created: Jan 15, 2013

YANGON: Myanmar has denied allegations that its military killed three civilians in an artillery attack on a Kachin rebel stronghold, and called for independent confirmation of the incident.

The Kachin Independence Army on Monday said three people, including a teenager and elderly man, died and several others were wounded after army shells landed in the centre of Laiza, a town bordering China that is the rebels' base.

But presidential spokesman Ye Htut said that the military -- or Tatmadaw -- had not fired at the time of the morning incident.

"There was no firing with heavy weapons from Tatmadaw side," he said in a post on his Facebook page, seen on Tuesday.

"We have learnt... that there were no planes or helicopters flying around that region. So we need to get independent confirmation for the reason of this explosion."

His comments come amid mounting international outcry over the military's use of air strikes in an upsurge of fighting since December, that has raised questions over the government's commitment to reform after a transition from military rule.

Britain joined the US and UN in criticising the military's use of jets and helicopters in the festering conflict, which erupted again in June 2011 when a 17-year ceasefire collapsed.

"These tactics represent a marked escalation, and pose a significant risk of civilian casualties," Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told the British parliament on Monday.

Calling for an "immediate cessation" of violence and access for humanitarian workers, he warned the situation is "increasingly serious and could present a threat to these wider reforms".

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin state since the breakdown of the ceasefire, with local relief workers estimating some 15,000 have taken shelter in Laiza.

On Tuesday China said it has taken "measures", which it did not specify, to ensure the safety of its citizens after three bombs landed on its side of the border during air attacks by Myanmar's military on rebels in early January.

- AFP/xq
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