Fighting in northeastern Myanmar puts China's army on alert

After an attack by ethnic separatists near China's border with Myanmar, China said that its military would act to protect its citizens.

Aung Shine Oo/AP
Rebel Gen. Samlut Gun Maw, vice chief of the staff of Kachin Independence Army, talks to journalists after the Union Peace Conference - 21st Century Panglong, at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Naypyitaw, Myanmar in September.

Fighting broke out on the border between Myanmar (also called Burma) and China on Sunday when several armed groups in Muse and Kutkai, towns in northeastern Myanmar’s Shan state, attacked military and police posts there.

The Chinese government reported that eight people were killed and 29 wounded in the confrontation overnight on Sunday. The country’s defense ministry, in a statement on its website, urged caution and peace to avoid greater damage, and said it was providing shelter for some people who fled across the Myanmar border to escape the fighting.

"The Chinese army is on high alert and will take the necessary measures to safeguard the country's sovereignty and safety, as well as protect the lives and property of Chinese citizens living along the border," the Chinese defense ministry said in a statement.

The weekend attacks dealt a blow to Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who promised to bring peace to Myanmar’s border regions, which are grappling with decades of fighting between the military and ethnic minorities. Thousands of people have been displaced by the ongoing conflict.

Ms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who leads the liberal National League for Democracy (NLD) party, won a landslide victory for her party in last year’s elections, ending five decades of brutal military rule.

The attacks this weekend come while the government deals with fighting in the northwestern Rakhine state that has forced hundreds of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh.

Now, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the impoverished country’s most powerful militias, joined three smaller groups – the ethnic Chinese Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and its allies, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Arm – to take on the government's military. 

The four groups said in a statement over the weekend that they had joined forces to attack the military over the weekend.

"The Burma armed forces have been assaulting to destroy all political and military struggles of the ethnic peoples because they have no will to solve Myanmar's political problem by politically peaceful negotiation methods," the groups said in a statement.

This report includes material from Reuters. 

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