UPDATED at 9:42 A.M. EST on 2018-05-16
Three Chinese nationals were killed during weekend attacks by an ethnic armed group in the border town and trading hub of Muse in one of the deadliest bouts of hostilities to hit Myanmar’s volatile northeastern Shan state in years, a local government official told RFA’s Myanmar service on Tuesday.
Soldiers from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) attacked Muse township’s police force, a local government-backed militia, and a casino on the outskirts of the town on May 12, leaving 20 people dead and more than two dozen injured.
Among the dead on Sunday were 14 civilians, including the Chinese nationals, while another civilian died the next day.
“Three Chinese citizens were killed during the fighting in Muse,” Hlaing Soe Thant, the town’s district administrator told RFA, contradicting a statement by Chinese officials that two of its nationals had died.
“They were visitors,” he said.
The Chinese government has not asked Myanmar for compensation for the killing of its citizens, but it has urged the Myanmar government to intensify security in the area, Hlaing Soe said.
About 250 Myanmar citizens fled across the border into Chinese territory during the attacks on May 12, but Chinese authorities sent them back to Myanmar that evening after the fighting ended, he said.
“Today’s situation in Muse is getting back to normal, so no one needs to worry anymore,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Myanmar condemned the violence in a statement issued Monday and said it has sent representatives to the relevant authorities in Myanmar to urge the ethnic militia and the government army to exercise restraint for an immediate cease-fire and to take measures to prevent tensions from escalating.
The TNLA has been engaged in long-running hostilities with Myanmar forces in northern Shan state, where it seeks greater autonomy. The militia was excluded from signing the government's nationwide cease-fire accord in October 2015, originally inked with eight other ethnic armed groups.
Ongoing fighting since 2011 has resulted in an increase in the number of internal refugees and civilian deaths in Shan and neighboring Kachin states, and has stymied the government’s efforts to bring warring ethnic militias to the negotiating table.
The United Nations estimates that more 15,000 people, the majority of whom are women and children, remain displaced in camps or camp-like settings in Shan state after fleeing the hostilities, with continued sporadic clashes between other ethnic armies and the Myanmar military and different ethnic armed groups further compounding the situation.
China, which has been providing support to Myanmar to hold a third round of peace talks under the government’s 21st-Century Panglong Conference, said it firmly opposes any attempt to undermine peace and stability along the China-Myanmar border and any act deliberately obstructing Myanmar’s peace process.
Motion on Muse passes
Also on Tuesday, the lower house of Myanmar’s parliament unanimously passed a motion submitted by lawmaker Than Soe and supported by lawmaker Thein Htun, both of the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), condemning the Muse attacks.
“This fighting is not the first time that fighting has occurred in Muse,” Than Soe said. “It is the second time, and innocent people were killed.”
“The trade flow and other businesses have also stopped operating because Muse lies along the major trade route to and from China,” he said.
Armed clashes between Myanmar forces and the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in northeastern Shan state in 2017 killed dozens, including a couple of Chinese nationals, and forced more than 30,000 to flee to safety, mostly in China where the Chinese government housed them in refugee camps.
The hostilities forced the closure of the Muse border trade zone, the largest of the trade hubs between Myanmar and China.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin and Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that both TNLA and Kachin Independence Army soldiers were involved in the attacks in Muse.