China calls for ceasefire after Myanmar border region clashes

A wounded victim of the deadly attack at a hospital in Laukkai.
A wounded victim of the deadly attack at a hospital in Laukkai.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China on Tuesday (March 7)  called for an immediate ceasefire between ethnic rebels and Myanmar security forces in a restive border area, urging the two sides to resolve their differences through peaceful means instead.

China is giving humanitarian help to people from Myanmar who have fled the fighting that has killed about 30 people and dealt a blow to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s goal of reaching peace with minorities. 

“The situation in northern Myanmar relates to the peace and tranquillity of the China-Myanmar border,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing. 

“The relevant parties should have an immediate ceasefire to prevent the clashes from escalating and return normal order to the border as soon as possible.” 

He added, “Since the clashes began, some Myanmar border residents have entered into China on safety considerations.” 

China is providing assistance on humanitarian grounds, Mr Geng said, adding that he had no information about any Chinese casualties.

He urged both sides to adopt peaceful means in resolving their differences through dialogue and consultation.

Ms Suu Kyi’s nearly one-year-old government is increasingly besieged by ethnic rebels, grappling with an alliance of militias in the north and a new Rohingya insurgency rebelling against decades of persecution in the country’s north-west.

The attack came after the Nobel Peace Prize winner met a delegation of ethnic armed groups last week to convince them to participate in a major peace conference.

Ms Suu Kyi swept to power in 2015 on promises of national reconciliation and the meeting was aimed at giving fresh impetus to the stuttering peace process.

Fighters of the predominantly ethnic Chinese Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) launched a pre-dawn attack on police, military and government sites in Laukkai, the capital of Myanmar’s north-eastern region of Kokang.

MNDAA is a part of the Northern Alliance coalition of rebel groups comprising one of Myanmar’s most powerful militias, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and two smaller groups caught in a stand-off with the military since 2015 clashes in the region.

Many died and tens of thousands fled during those clashes, which also spilled over into China’s territory and resulted in the death of five of its people, angering Beijing.