China asks citizens to evacuate Myanmar border area over security risks

Fighting continues in restive border area despite Beijing’s attempts to broker truce between military, armed groups.

This photo taken on December 12, 2023 shows members of ethnic minority armed group Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) sitting at a checkpoint amid clashes with Myanmar's military in Namhsan Township in Myanmar's northern Shan State.
Members of the ethnic minority armed group Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) at a checkpoint amid clashes with Myanmar's military in northern Shan State, December 12, 2023 [AFP]

China’s embassy in Myanmar has asked its citizens to leave a border district in Myanmar as soon as possible, citing security risks.

The call on Thursday to evacuate the Laukkai area in the Kokang region, along the countries’ shared border, came as Myanmar’s military battles an alliance of ethnic armed groups fighting to overturn its 2021 coup.

Clashes have raged since October across Myanmar’s northern Shan State after the Arakan Army (AA), the Mandarin-speaking Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched Operation 1027, an offensive against the military.

The alliance has seized several towns and border hubs vital for trade with China since the offensive began in late October.

“The conflicts in Laukkai district of Kokang, northern Myanmar continue, and safety risks have escalated for people stranded there,” the embassy said on Thursday on its WeChat account.

“The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar once again reminds Chinese citizens in Laukkai district to evacuate as soon as possible.”

The MNDAA has promised to recapture Laukkai town, which is notorious for gambling, transnational human trafficking and online scams.

This month, Beijing said it had mediated talks between the military and the three armed groups and reached an agreement for a “temporary ceasefire”.

China has previously called for an immediate end to the fighting in the area, where a billion-dollar rail line is planned under Beijing’s $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative.

In November, the anti-coup alliance seized the border town of Chinshwehaw, a key conduit for the $1.8bn in annual trade between China and Myanmar.

Analysts say Beijing maintains ties with ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar, some of whom share close ethnic and cultural ties with China and use Chinese currency and phone networks in the territory they control.

Beijing is also a major arms supplier and ally of the military, but ties have been strained in recent months over the military’s failure to crack down on online scam compounds in Myanmar that Beijing says target Chinese citizens.

The generals seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies