Crisis in Myanmar escalates as president warns of potential fragmentation amidst border clashes

Myanmar’s junta-backed president, Myint Swe, has issued a stark warning that the nation faces the risk of breaking apart if the military fails to quell a joint offensive by ethnic armed groups along the border with China.

The conflict, which has raged for nearly two weeks in northern Shan state, is considered the most significant military challenge to the junta since it seized power in 2021.

President Myint Swe’s alarming statement came during a meeting of the National Defense and Security Council, where he stressed that effective management of incidents in the border region is crucial to prevent the country from splintering.

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army claim to have seized numerous military outposts, obstructing vital trade routes to China.

While the junta has admitted losing control of a key trade hub, it has remained silent on the recent progress of the fighting.

Myint Swe, who was vice president under the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi, voiced concerns about the stability of the nation and acknowledged the sacrifices made by junta troops to restore some degree of stability.

The conflict has spilled over into the borderlands, where more than a dozen ethnic armed groups, some with decades-long grievances over autonomy and control of resources, reside.

The rise of “People’s Defense Forces” (PDF) since the 2021 coup has added complexity to the situation, with reports of PDF fighters setting fire to government buildings and infrastructure in Sagaing region.

Sagaing, predominantly inhabited by the ethnic-majority Bamar, has become a focal point of resistance against junta rule.

Numerous PDF groups are active in the region, accusing the military of burning villages and committing atrocities.

Several PDF groups claim to have seized the town of Kawlin in Sagaing, but communication has been severed by the military.

In a troubling turn, Beijing, a key ally and arms supplier to the junta, confirmed Chinese casualties resulting from the clashes in Myanmar.

The exact details of the incident, including the location and nature of casualties, remain unclear. Reports from Myanmar suggest Chinese individuals were killed and wounded after the military shelled the town of Laiza, headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army, just inside the Myanmar border.

The situation unfolds with heightened tensions, posing a formidable challenge for Myanmar’s junta as it grapples with internal strife and international repercussions.

© Agence France-Presse

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