About 90,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar due to the intensifying conflict between the country’s military rulers and an alliance of ethnic armed groups, the United Nations said.
“As of 9 November, almost 50,000 people in northern Shan were forced into displacement,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update on Friday.
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A further 40,000 people have been displaced by clashes between the military and its opponents in neighbouring Sagaing region and Kachin state since early November, OCHA added.
Two weeks ago, the Three Brotherhood Alliance, one of Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic armed alliances, launched a coordinated attack on a dozen military outposts in northern Shan state, which sits on the country’s eastern border with China, and captured the border town of Chin Shwe Haw.
The offensive is the most serious test for the generals since they seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
A statement from the Three Brotherhood Alliance stated that seeks to defend territory against Myanmar military incursions, eradicate “oppressive military dictatorship,” and combat online fraud along the border.
On Thursday, Myint Swe, appointed as Myanmar’s president after the coup, told a national defence and security council meeting in the country that “if the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region, the country will be split into various parts”.
According to OCHA, almost all of the people who have been displaced since the conflict began on October 26 are seeking refuge in religious compounds. A few have entered existing internally displaced persons (IDP) sites.
The UN body warned that disrupted transport, communications, and other services were hindering humanitarian responses to the fighting.
“Ongoing hostilities, coupled with the existence of checkpoints, road closures, and structural damage to bridges, are severely restricting the ability of humanitarian agencies to reach affected people, conduct verification of needs, and transport vital supplies,” OCHA said.
The violence has also raised concern in Beijing, which is putting pressure on the Myanmar military to crack down on crime in the border area. China maintains billions of dollars worth of energy infrastructure investments in the remote area of Myanmar.
Beijing has, since the coup, continued to engage diplomatically with the military while also serving as one of its biggest arms suppliers.
Jason Tower, Myanmar country director with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), told Al Jazeera that China has shown a “growing willingness … to flex its muscles in influencing all of the actors involved in the revolution or the conflict in Myanmar” since the coup.
“It’s important to look closely at how China is going to use that influence,” he said.
China will ensure security and stability at its border with Myanmar, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated on Friday, urging all parties to cease fighting.