Myint Swe, appointed as Myanmar’s president after the coup, has warned this month’s gains by an alliance of ethnic armed groups in areas bordering China risk breaking the country apart, in the military regime’s first acknowledgement of the challenge it is facing.
The Three Brotherhood Alliance, a powerful ethnic armed grouping, launched a coordinated attack on a dozen military outposts in the northern Shan state, along the country’s eastern border with China on October 26, capturing the border town of Chin Shwe Haw.
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Updates on November 7 said the alliance continued to gain ground and had taken control of more military posts, seizing weapons and military equipment.
The military had responded by sending in fighter jets to bomb the area, it said.
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.
It has also energised the civilian People’s Defence Forces that have been fighting for months, sometimes alongside ethnic armed groups, to overturn the coup with fighting reported in other parts of the country.
“If the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region, the country will be split into various parts,” Myint Swe told a national defence and security council meeting in the capital, Naypyidaw, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar. “It is necessary to carefully control this issue.”
The newspaper said coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing had opened the meeting, saying the military had “successfully regained control of the situation” after “dealing a significant blow to the MNDAA (Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army”.
Citing Ming Aung Hlaing, the report said the MNDAA had suffered a “large number of casualties”.
The MNDAA is one of several groups within the alliance, which also includes the Ta’Ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA).
The members of the alliance said they had mounted the offensive to eradicate “oppressive military dictatorship” as well as to put an end to the booming business of cyber-scamming.
Beijing has also been putting pressure on the military to crack down on crimes in the border area, and China’s Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong visited Myanmar days after the fighting erupted amid concern about the surge in violence.
The instability in Shan state and the rest of Myanmar has also led to a boom in the illegal drugs trade.