Chinese envoy visits military junta as military clash with local ethnic armed groups
China’s envoy for Asian Affairs spent a week in the former Burma, scene of violent clashes between the military and anti-coup fighters. Yesterday, Beijing announced a successful cargo test connecting its southwestern province with the Indian Ocean via Myanmar.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – China’s special envoy for Asian Affairs completed a seven-day visit to Myanmar last week. During his stay, Sun Guoxiang met with military junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, who overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi's government in a coup on 1 February.
The visit, which took place between 21 and 28 August, coincided with clashes between the Myanmar military and ethnic militias in Shan, Kayah, and Mon states.
China just opened a new railway line that will allow goods to reach Yunnan province after travelling by land via Myanmar, the China News Service reported. A test cargo successfully arrived at its destination a few days ago.
The goods were shipped from Singapore to the port of Yangon, then travelled by road to Lincang, a Chinese city on the border with Myanmar, where it was loaded on a train on a newly built railway line that goes as far as Chengdu, an important trading hub in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan.
The independent news website The Irrawaddy reports that the Myanmar segment runs through Mandalay, Lashio and Hsenwi and “is expected to become the lifeblood of international trade for China and Myanmar, while providing a source of income for Myanmar’s military regime.”
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar said that China supports “Myanmar’s efforts to restore social stability and resume democratic transformation at an early date”.
To this end, General Min Aung Hlaing, the Chinese envoy "exchanged views . . . on the political landscape in Myanmar”.
Sun had previously participated in talks between the military and some Myanmar ethnic groups that oppose the military. However, four Shan State armed groups, united in the Northern Alliance, refuse to negotiate with the junta.
According to local sources, the military suffered casualties over the weekend. Last Saturday, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the National Democratic Army of Myanmar (MNDAA) ambushed more than 100 junta soldiers, wounding at least 20, in Monekoe, Shan State.
A KIA spokesperson confirmed the clashes but declined to provide more precise information about casualties.
According to a volunteer, about 2,000 people living in Monekoe and nearby Pang Hseng, on the border with China, have fled their homes due to the fighting.
“They were forced to stay in makeshift tents along the border,” the volunteer explained. “We still haven’t been able to get to them. We could only get to Pang Hseng because troops from both sides are operating in the area.”
According to The Irrawaddy, Myanmar troops retaliated, shelling the village of Nam Ha, killing at least four civilians, including a 10-year-old boy.
As fighting continued, MNDAA killed at least 15 junta soldiers on Monday. The latter were bringing reinforcements from Pansai.
Myanmar forces also clashed with ethnic armed groups in Loikaw, Kayah State, and Thaton, a district in Mon State.
A spokesman for the Karen National Union (KNU), which has its own armed wing, said that clashes will continue as long as the Myanmar military continues to invade its territory.
Since mid-August, the Myanmar military has boosted its presence in areas under rebel control.