Aid worker dies from Kokang convoy attack wounds

31 March 2015
Aid worker dies from Kokang convoy attack wounds
U Moe Kyaw Than, 47, volunteer of Myanmar Red Cross who was wounded in rescue convoy attack on 17 February, lies on bed at Lashio General Hospital, Lashio, northern Shan State, Myanmar, February 19, 2015. U Moe Kyaw Than reportedly died from his wounds on March 27. Photo: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

A Myanmar aid worker injured in an attack last month on a convoy in Shan state has died of his wounds, state media reported on March 30, as clashes continue between the army and rebels.
The unrest in the mountainous Kokang area has caused tens of thousands to flee across the frontier with China and rocked relations with Beijing as the Myanmar army launched airstrikes against the rebels.  
Dozens of fighters, both government troops and ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels, have died since the conflict erupted in early February, while an unknown number of civilians have also been killed.
U Moe Kyaw Than, of the Myanmar Red Cross Society, suffered gunshot wounds when his aid convoy came under fire while ferrying civilians from the main Kokang town of Laukkai in late February, in the first of several such attacks.
He "passed away at Mandalay General Hospital while receiving medical treatment", according to a report in the Global New Light of Myanmar, which blamed rebels for the assault.
A Myanmar Red Cross worker in the nearby Shan town of Lashio said U Moe Kyaw Than had died on March 27. 
The local aid group is separate from the better-known International Committee of the Red Cross. 
The conflict in Kokang comes as Myanmar's quasi-civilian government is struggling to ink a nationwide deal to end decades of civil strife in ethnic-minority border areas.
However, the peace talks, which continued in Yangon on Monday, have not included Kokang.
China has urged Myanmar to restore peace in the border region.
Tensions rose earlier this month when China mobilised fighter jets after a bomb apparently from a Myanmar warplane landed in Chinese territory and killed five farm workers.
Kokang has strong bonds with China -- local people speak a Chinese dialect and China's yuan is the common currency. 
Experts say Myanmar is resistant to any compromise with the Kokang fighters, who swept back into the region last month more than six years after they were driven out by the military.
Myanmar's army has enjoyed a rare public relations boost over the fighting, tapping into local unease about the power of the country's giant neighbour as well as accusations that the rebels are linked to narcotics smuggling.
A fire department official in Lashio, who asked not to be named, said the number of civilians leaving Kokang had slowed to a trickle as the army gains more control over territory in the area. But he added that attacks had continued over the weekend.