Myanmar’s military and an alliance of armed ethnic minority groups have announced a China-mediated ceasefire after months of conflict that has posed the biggest threat to the junta since it seized power in 2021.
Fighting has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced more than half a million people since October, when the alliance launched an offensive against the junta.
The alliance has seized several towns and border hubs in Myanmar’s northern Shan state that are vital for trade with China, a major arms supplier and ally of the military.
“With the help of China’s facilitation, there was a meeting in (the southern Chinese city) Kunming. We have reached a ceasefire agreement,” junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told AFP.
Tar Bhone Kyaw of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – one member of the alliance – said they had “agreed to reopen border trade” with China.
Beijing also announced the ceasefire on Friday, but no details of the areas it would cover or when it would come into force were given by any party.
“The two sides agreed to an immediate ceasefire, to disengage military personnel and resolve relevant disputes and demands through peaceful negotiations,” the foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.
The talks took place with the “mediation and facilitation of the Chinese side” on Wednesday and Thursday in the city of Kunming in Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar, she said.
China’s relationship with the junta has been strained in recent months over its failure to crack down on online scam operations that Beijing says target Chinese citizens.
Since November people have been fleeing Laukkai town, located in a district bordering China, that was run by a Myanmar military-aligned militia and known for gambling, prostitution and online scams run out of compounds staffed by thousands of people, many trafficked.
The alliance – made up of the TNLA, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA) – said last week the town was now under their control.
After reports last week that an artillery shell had exploded across Myanmar’s border with China, Beijing voiced “strong dissatisfaction” that fighting had caused Chinese casualties and said it would take “all necessary measures” to protect its citizens.
Last month, Beijing said it had mediated talks between the Myanmar military and the allied ethnic armed groups and reached an agreement for a “temporary ceasefire”.
But clashes continued in parts of Shan state, and China’s embassy asked its citizens to evacuate an area along the shared border owing to security risks.
On Friday, spokesperson Mao said “both sides pledged not to compromise the safety of Chinese border residents and Chinese personnel in Myanmar.
“Maintaining the momentum of ceasefire and peace talks in northern Myanmar is in line with the interests of all parties in Myanmar and also helps to maintain peace and stability at the border,” she said.
SOURCE – The Guardian