Chinese embassy urges ‘restraint’ on border
In the wake of an offensive this week by four ethnic armed groups in the border township of Muse and neighbouring Kutkai, the Chinese embassy urged all parties involved to restore peace.
THE Chinese embassy in Yangon yesterday urged all parties in the conflict that flared this week in northern Shan State “to exercise restraint by taking concrete and effective measures for an immediate ceasefire, so as to resume peace in the China-Myanmar border area as soon as possible”.
An early-morning offensive by four ethnic armed groups in the border township of Muse and neighbouring Kutkai township killed at least eight people on November 20. The coordinated assault, on what the government said was 10 police and military outposts, marked a major blow to the civilian National League for Democracy government’s peace overtures to the nation’s ethnic armed groups, more than seven months into its term in office.
The State Counsellor’s Office Information Committee, originally set up to disseminate information about the ongoing conflict in western Rakhine State, has also taken to providing updates on the situation in northern Shan State. It said 2600 civilians had been displaced and were sheltering at five monasteries in Muse township, where the government was providing support.
The Chinese embassy said others had fled across the border into Yunnan province.
“For humanitarian considerations, the local Chinese government has taken in those who have crossed the border and sent the injured ones to hospitals for medical treatment,” read a statement from the embassy yesterday.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Defence said the November 20 attacks included heavy weapons fire, with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army temporarily blocking the road linking Muse to Lashio about 160 kilometres (100 miles) to the south.
The attacks were carried out by an “alliance of the Northern Brotherhood” comprised of the TNLA, the Kachin Independence Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army.
The four groups released a joint statement in the attacks’ aftermath, saying, “Despite the fact that our alliance of the Northern Brotherhoods truly want a genuine peace and wish to solve political problem [sic] by political means, we have inevitably launched such a joint military operation when constantly receiving military pressures from the Burma army.”
The situation in the aftermath of the November 20 attacks remains unstable, with the motorway to Muse – a major overland trade route – impassable and anxieties among civilians running high.
Speaking yesterday, Muse district administrator U Zaw Min said, “One person was injured from shooting by an armed group on the ambulance-bus of the Ga Yu Nar Organisation on the Ho Naung highway at 4pm today.”
Local CSOs released a statement saying efforts were being made to provide for the newly displaced populations but that there remained significant unmet needs.
The Information Bureau of China’s Defence Ministry announced on November 20 that its military had been put on high alert and was “taking necessary measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and protect safety of lives and properties of the Chinese people inhabiting in the border area”.
The Shan State Peace Task Force, a Shan civil society organisation, has urged the government, the Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed groups’ leaders to convene a political dialogue inclusive of all parties to the conflict. The group also demanded an end to conflict in Shan and Kachin states.
None of the groups involved in the attack has a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government, nor were any of the four signatories to last year’s nationwide ceasefire agreement.
The TNLA, the MNDAA and the Arakan Army were unable to attend the 21st-century Panglong Conference convened in late August because the Tatmadaw demanded that they first lay down their weapons, a precondition at which the three groups balked.
The KIA took part in the conference, even as its troops were engaged in hostilities in Kachin State. A spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Organisation, the KIA’s political wing, said the Tatmadaw had expanded its offensive in October and November.
Earlier this month, fighting between the Tatmadaw and the TNLA in Shan State killed five government troops and injured four civilians.
A tally from the Myanmar Peace Monitor put the number of clashes in October between the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups at more than 20, with 7000 people displaced as a result.
Soldiers from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) participate in a training session at a military camp near Laiza, Kachin State on November 19.