Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief on Tuesday summoned China’s ambassador to Myanmar to discuss the volatile situation along the border area in northern Shan state where Myanmar ethnic rebels are battling government forces, in a bid to relax relations with the neighboring country strained by the hostilities.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told Ambassador Hong Liang in the capital Naypyidaw that both countries must cooperate to create peace and stability in the border areas, according to an announcement by the commander-in-chief’s office.
They discussed the situation in Laukkai, capital of the area controlled by the ethnic Kokang in the northern part of Shan State and site of recent clashes between ethnic rebels and security forces.
Min Aung Hlaing also said the hostilities have hurt local residents and bilateral border trade relations with China
Hong Liang reiterated China’s call for a cessation of fighting in the area, which he said was harming peace, stability, security, and participation in the negotiations for restoring peace in Myanmar.
On March 15, leaders of the Northern Alliance—a coalition of four ethnic militias engaged in fighting in northern Shan state—met with a Chinese envoy in Kunming, capital of southwestern China’s Yunnan province, to discuss stopping deadly clashes along the border that have forced tens of thousands of Myanmar residents to flee to China.
Sun Guoxiang, China’s special envoy for Asian affairs, told the representatives from the ethnic armed groups that China would be willing to mediate negotiations between the militias and the Myanmar government.
The members of the Northern Alliance—Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—launched coordinated attacks on Nov. 20 on government and military targets in northern Shan state and the 105-mile border trade zone between Myanmar and China.
China suspends ban account
In a related development, Reuters reported on Wednesday that China had suspended an account at the state-owned Agricultural Bank of China (AgBank) used by the MNDAA, also known as the Kokang army, to receive donations from supporters.
The MNDAA is involved in ongoing hostilities with Myanmar security forces after launching an attack on a police station, military camps, and civilian buildings on March 6 in Laukkai township in northeastern Shan State.
Dozens have been reported killed in the skirmishes that have driven more than 30,000 people to flee to safety, mostly in China where the Chinese government is housing them in refugee camps.
Calls by the Chinese government for an immediate cease-fire and the restoration of order along the border area have been ignored.
Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay praised the move and told the news agency that “stability and peace in the border area is a common interest for both sides.”
The Myanmar News Agency has reported 57 armed clashes between the MNDAA and government soldiers up to March 14.
NMSP seeks ‘political way’
Meanwhile, another ethnic armed group—the New Mon State Party (NMSP)—has changed tack in its approach to reaching a cease-fire deal with the Myanmar military, an NMSP spokesman said on Wednesday.
The NMSP did not sign the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the Myanmar government that eight other ethnic militias inked in October 2015.
“The Mon people suggested that we decide to sign the government’s NCA as a political way [to resolve the hostilities with the Myanmar army],” said Naing Win Hla, adding that the organization will abandon its insistence on a peace deal with the government that includes all militias that have not signed the NCA.
The NMSP cannot participate in talks along with the AA, MNDAA, and TNLA because they have said that they will not sign the NCA and will try to reach peace through other means, he said.
The NMSP will join other ethnic armed groups that are part of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups that did not sign the government’s NCA.
Reported by Kyaw Soe Lin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written by Roseanne Gerin.