China Condemns Myanmar’s Ethnic Rebels for Shan State Fighting

By Nan Lwin 19 August 2019

YANGON—China on Monday criticized recent attacks by an alliance of ethnic armed groups on police and military outposts in northern Myanmar’s Shan State, saying the actions derail the country’s peace process and create instability in the region.

At a press conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said China “strongly condemned” the attacks carried by the Northern Alliance (NA), an alliance of the ethnic armed groups the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

The initial attacks, on a military training academy and several police and security outposts in and around Pyin Oo Lwin Township in Mandalay Region and Naung Cho Township in Shan State, killed 15 security officers, including military soldiers, and two civilians.

Fighting has since spread and intensified in the area where, near Lashio on Saturday, a rescue worker was killed amid exchanges of sniper fire and a rocket-propelled grenade.

At a press conference in Beijing, Geng Shuang told reporters China takes peace and stability along its border seriously, and that it supports Myanmar’s peace process. He said a ceasefire unilaterally announced by the military in northern Shan State needs to be maintained, and that China will continue to support the peace process in a “positive way.”

China shares a border with Myanmar’s Kachin and Shan states, where fighting has recently broken out and where projects connected to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are.

The military first announced a unilateral ceasefire in the region on Dec. 21, 2018 and has extended it twice, with its current term set to expire on Aug. 31, but the TNLA and the MNDAA have repeatedly claimed that the military has continued to attack their posts there in direct contradiction to its own ceasefire.

The NA immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, calling them “necessary new counteroffensives against the military … in order to reduce military pressure in our regions.”

The military has suggested the NA attacks were responses to the Tatmadaw’s seizure of 16 billion kyats worth of drugs and production equipment in raids on July 25 and Aug. 8 in the area.

Since 2017, China has acted as an official peace broker between the military and Northern Alliance members, though negotiations have reached an impasse over territorial claims.

Two days prior to the attacks, rebel groups released a statement saying they had been trying, with the help of the Chinese government, to negotiate a bilateral ceasefire with the Myanmar military, but that military offensives against the AA in Rakhine State and against the TNLA and MNDAA in northern Shan State were growing more aggressive by the day.

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