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China urges evacuation by nationals in northern Myanmar

China’s embassy in Myanmar on Thursday (Dec 28) asked its citizens to leave a northern district along the countries’ shared border, citing heightened security risks as ethnic minority armed groups battle the junta.

Clashes have raged since October across Myanmar’s northern Shan state after the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched an offensive against the military.

The groups have seized several towns and border hubs vital for trade with China in what analysts say is the biggest military challenge to the junta since it seized power in 2021.

The MNDAA has vowed to recapture Laukkai town, located in a district bordering China that is run by a military-aligned militia and notorious for gambling, prostitution and online scams.

“The conflicts in Laukkai district of Kokang, northern Myanmar continue, and safety risks have escalated for people stranded there,” the embassy said on its WeChat account.

“The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar once again reminds Chinese citizens in Laukkai district to evacuate as soon as possible.”

Media affiliated with the MNDAA said this week that Myanmar’s junta had carried out airstrikes in the self-administered Kokang region that surrounds Laukkai and shelled parts of the town.

AFP has contacted an MNDAA spokesperson for comment.

Earlier this month, Beijing said it had mediated talks between the military and the three ethnic armed groups and reached an agreement for a “temporary ceasefire”.

But clashes have continued in parts of Shan state, with the TNLA claiming to have captured two more towns in recent days.

Analysts say Beijing maintains ties with ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar, some of whom share close ethnic and cultural ties with China and use Chinese currency and phone networks in the territory they control.

Beijing is also a major arms supplier and ally of the junta, but ties have been strained in recent months over the junta’s failure to crack down on online scam compounds in Myanmar that Beijing says target Chinese citizens.

Protesters gathered for a rare demonstration in Yangon last month to accuse China of backing the ethnic minority alliance, in what analysts say was a move sanctioned by junta authorities.

Source: The Star