File photo : The photo taken late on October 28shows a missile fired from a Myanmar military base in Lashio township, northern Shan State. //AFP
Yangon, Myanmar – China’s public security minister has held talks with Myanmar’s junta on establishing peace along their shared border, state media said Tuesday, following clashes between ethnic armed groups and the military in Myanmar.
Thousands of people have been reportedly displaced, with some crossing into China, after three armed groups fighting for autonomy launched coordinated attacks on the junta, which said it had lost control of several outposts.
Wang Xiaohong, who is also a member of China’s cabinet, the State Council, met the junta’s home minister Lieutenant-General Yar Pyae in the capital Naypyidaw, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
The two “discussed peace and tranquillity in border areas of the two countries” and cooperation on law enforcement and security, it said, without giving details.
Since Friday fighting has raged across a swathe of Myanmar’s northern Shan state — where a billion-dollar rail link is planned as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road global infrastructure project.
The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) say they have seized several military posts and key roads linking Myanmar with China, its biggest trade partner.
The three groups — which analysts say can call on at least 15,000 fighters between them — have fought regularly with the military over autonomy and control of resources.
The TNLA said on Tuesday its troops were battling the military around 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Lashio town, home to the military’s northeastern command.
Shops were open in the town, a resident told AFP, but banks were closed and the streets were quieter than usual.
“Security forces have closed the roads around military bases and the airport,” they said, requesting anonymity for security reasons.
Flights to and from Lashio’s airport have been cancelled until at least Wednesday, an air ticketing agent told AFP.
Phone and internet connections in Hopang township, around 10 kilometres from Chinshwehaw on the China border, appeared to be cut on Tuesday.
On Monday the MNDAA released footage it said showed its fighters occupying Chinshwehaw.
More than a quarter of Myanmar’s $1.8 billion worth of border trade with China from April to September this year passed through Chinshwehaw, junta-controlled media reported last month, citing the commerce ministry.
In commercial hub Yangon the price of Chinese potatoes had gone up as new shipments “cannot travel through the border route”, state media reported on Monday.
The AA, TNLA and MNDAA say the military has suffered with dozens wounded, killed and captured since Friday.
Analysts say both sides likely inflate or deflate casualty figures.
– Displacement –
The United Nations has said it fears more than 6,200 people have been displaced by the fighting, including 600 who have fled across the Chinese border.
China is a top ally and major arms supplier of the junta, and has refused to label its 2021 power grab a coup.
Beijing maintains ties with some ethnic armed groups along its border with Myanmar, home to ethnic Chinese communities who use Chinese SIM cards and currency.
It has previously denied reports it has supplied the armed groups with weapons.
China’s envoy for the country has met regularly with their leadership in recent months and during the Covid pandemic provided vaccines and aid to territory that the groups control.
Beijing is also angered by a mushrooming of online scam centres in Myanmar’s northern reaches that it says target Chinese citizens.
In July it asked the junta to “root out” scams that target its citizens.