Ethnic rebel groups launched coordinated attacks on military outposts near the border with China.
A high-ranking official from China has made a visit to military-ruled Myanmar to discuss security along the countries’ shared border, Myanmar state media has reported.
The visit by Chinese State Council member and Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong on Tuesday has come as fighting rages along Myanmar’s northeastern frontier, where an alliance of ethnic minority groups recently launched an offensive against the military government.
Wang Xiaohong met Myanmar Home Minister Lieutenant-General Yar Pyae in the capital, Naypyidaw, on Tuesday to discuss “peace and tranquillity in border areas of the two countries” and cooperation on law enforcement and security, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
Wang’s visit came just days after the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), calling themselves the Three Brotherhood Alliance, launched an offensive to seize military targets in the northern part of Shan state.
The alliance claims to have seized several military posts and key roads linking Myanmar with China.
The three groups – which analysts have said can call on at least 15,000 fighters between them – have fought regularly with the military over autonomy and control of resources.
Several groups, including those in the Three Brotherhood Alliance, have collaborated with pro-democracy militias formed after the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
The militias, collectively known as the People’s Defence Force, now battle the army across much of the country.
Battles have been reported since Friday in the Shan state townships of Kunlong, Hseni, Kyaukme, Kutkai, Lashio, Laukkaing, Muse, Namhkan, Chinshwehaw and Nawnghkio.
Fighting also spread in some areas in northern Kachin state, the northern part of Sagaing region, and Mogok township in Mandalay region.
The military has responded with bombing and shelling, sending many hundreds of civilians fleeing to safer areas, residents have said.
The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that towns in Shan state were attacked by the combined forces to affect border trade and transportation. It said rocket attacks by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army killed two children in Namkhan township.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a situation report published on Monday that seven people, including two children, were killed and nine others were injured due to the fighting.
It said more than 6,200 newly displaced people sought refuge in nearby forests or religious compounds in northern Shan state, and that several hundred people had crossed the border into China in search of safety.
In the commercial hub, Yangon, the violence is affecting the price of simple commodities. The price of Chinese potatoes had gone up as new shipments “cannot travel through the border route”, state media reported on Monday.
Beijing has maintained ties with some ethnic armed groups along its border with Myanmar, home to ethnic Chinese communities who use Chinese SIM cards and currency, but has denied reports that it has supplied the armed groups with weapons.