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Myanmar media blames rebels for deaths at dam
by Staff Writers
Yangon (AFP) Aug 5, 2011

Myanmar state media on Friday accused ethnic fighters of killing seven people who visited a Chinese-run dam at the centre of an ongoing conflict between the army and rebels.

Six of those killed were workers at the hydropower plant in northern Myanmar, which is owned jointly by the government and China's Datang (Yunan) United Hydropower Developing Company, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

The government mouthpiece said two mechanics, one Chinese-speaking interpreter, two drivers and a policeman died at the scene, while another technician died later of his injuries. Another policeman was wounded.

It did not appear that any of the victims were Chinese.

Fighting between government troops and Kachin Independence Army rebels was sparked three months ago near the dam project in Kachin State near the Chinese border. The KIA and Myanmar military have since been trying to reach a ceasefire.

Friday's state media report appeared to be a rebuttal of KIA statements blaming a landmine for the deaths.

"The KIA intentionally opened fire at the vehicle," it said. "Bullet wounds were found on the dead bodies, the injured persons. Bullet holes were also found on the vehicle," the paper in an article accompanied by pictures of the bodies.

In June state media said fighting had caused 215 Chinese workers from the project to be sent back to China and accused rebels of launching "heavy weapons fire at the project".

Relations between the army and ceasefire groups have soured over the past year as ethnic minority fighters were pressured to give up their weapons or come under state control in the run-up to a controversial November election.

Democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, who recently held her first talks with a minister in the new government, last month called on the army and ethnic insurgents to end a decades-long civil conflict.

The Burma Environmental Working Group, a network of activist organisations, last week called for an end to foreign investment in projects exploiting Myanmar's natural resources, accusing such activities of sparking conflict in ethnic minority areas.

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