Myanmar conflict: Armed rebellion risks break-up of nation, says junta-backed president

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Myanmar’s junta-backed president said the country risks disintegrating if the military cannot quell a joint offensive by ethnic armed groups along the border with China, state media reported Thursday.

Fighting has been going on for almost two weeks in the northern state of Shan, near the border with China. Analysts say this is the biggest military challenge for the junta since it seized power in 2021.

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

Myanmar’s National Democratic Alliance military, 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 losing control of a key trade hub but had not commented on the progress of the fighting for days.

Myint Swe made the comments at a meeting of the National Defense 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, which the military ousted in 2021.

He was later appointed acting president by the junta.

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

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

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

In recent days, PDF fighters had “burned government buildings, roads and bridges” in several townships in the northern Sagaing region, the national security meeting said.

Sagaing, home to the ethnic majority Bamar population and a traditional army recruitment area, has become a hotspot of resistance to junta rule.

Dozens of PDF groups are active in Sagaing, where the army is accused of burning villages and massacring residents.

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

AFP was unable to reach people in the city, where the army had cut telephone and internet connections.

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

A Foreign Ministry spokesman did not say whether the Chinese were killed or injured, or where exactly the incident took place.

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

Read related topics:China

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