Beijing condemns fighting between Myanmar army, rebels near China border
Parties should ‘exercise restraint’, implement a ceasefire and prevent the situation from escalating, embassy says
China on Sunday condemned fighting in Myanmar between government troops and ethnic militants near the Chinese border, that left 19 people dead and caused others to flee into its territory.
Myanmar’s military frequently clashes with several groups who say they are fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic minorities in the area, through which much of Myanmar’s foreign trade flows.
The Myanmar government said on Saturday that ethnic insurgents in the country killed 19 people – including four members of the security forces and 15 civilians – in a major attack near the main border gate with China.
A further 20 civilians were wounded, a spokesman said.
The Ta’ang National Liberation Army, made up of fighters from the Ta’ang or Palaung ethnic group, said the group attacked a casino run by militiamen, and a Myanmar army post on the outskirts of border town Muse, a few hundred metres from a river that separates Myanmar’s northern Shan state and southwestern China’s Yunnan province.
China’s embassy in Myanmar said in a statement that the conflict had sent stray bullets into China, along with an unidentified number of people seeking refuge.
The embassy “condemns this violent incident, and feels pained for the relevant innocent people who were harmed”, the statement said, adding that it had made “solemn representations” to Myanmar’s government.
China called for all parties to “exercise restraint”, implement a ceasefire, and prevent the situation from escalating, so as to restore peace to the China-Myanmar border region.
Violence on the Myanmar side of the border has in recent years sent thousands fleeing through the rugged mountain terrain into China, where the Chinese government at times has set up relief camps.
Last year, Beijing estimated that a flare-up in violence led to more than 20,000 refugees crossing the border, while fighting in 2009 and 2015 displaced tens of thousands of people. Ordnance has occasionally strayed into China and killed people.
Such conflict has frayed ties between China and Myanmar, which Beijing hopes could be a key gateway in its “Belt and Road Initiative” to promote regional economic links.