11 July 2024

Yangon, Myanmar – Myanmar’s junta-backed president said the country is at risk of breaking apart if the military cannot crush a joint offensive by ethnic armed groups along the border with China, state media reported Thursday. 

Fighting has raged for almost two weeks across northern Shan state near the China border, posing what analysts say is the biggest military challenge to the junta since it seized power in 2021.

“If the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region, the country will be split into various parts,” Myint Swe said Wednesday, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar.

File photo : Myint Swe

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army say they have seized dozens of military outposts and blocked vital trade routes to China.

The junta has admitted to losing control of a key trade hub, but had not commented on the progress of the fighting for days. Myint Swe made the remarks at a meeting of the National Defence and Security Council, attended by junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and other top military officials.

Myint Swe was vice president under the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi that the military ousted in 2021.

He was later appointed acting president by the junta.

“Stability can be restored to some extent due to the sacrifice of the lives” of junta troops, he said, without giving details.

China ‘casualties’ –

Myanmar’s borderlands are home to more than a dozen ethnic armed groups, some of which have fought the military for decades over autonomy and control of lucrative resources.

Some have trained and equipped newer “People’s Defence Forces” (PDF) that have sprung up since the coup and the military’s bloody crackdown on dissent.

In recent days PDF fighters had set “fire to government buildings, roads and bridges” in several townships in northern Sagaing region, the national security meeting was told.

Sagaing, home to mostly ethnic-majority Bamar, and a traditional recruiting ground for the military, has become a hotspot of resistance to junta rule.

Dozens of PDF groups are active across Sagaing, where the military is accused of burning villages and massacring inhabitants.

Earlier this week several PDF groups claimed to have seized the town of Kawlin in Sagaing.

AFP was unable to reach people in the town, where the military had cut phone and internet connections.

On Tuesday Beijing, a major junta ally and arms supplier, confirmed there had been Chinese casualties as a result of the clashes in Myanmar.

A foreign ministry spokesperson did not say whether the Chinese were killed or wounded, nor where precisely the incident had taken place.

Local media in Myanmar reported on Saturday that one Chinese person was killed and another two wounded after the military shelled the town of Laiza, just inside the Myanmar border and home to the headquarters of ethnic armed group the Kachin Independence Army.

Agence France-Presse