Fighting at Muse, a border town in Northeastern Shan state, is pushing some 20,000 Myanmar locals to take refuge in China, with possible tensions rising between refugees and locals from Yunnan. It is also jeopardize efforts between both countries to conduct normal business on each side of the border.
On Sunday, China condemned fighting on its border between Myanmar forces and ethnic rebels that has left 19 dead, mostly civilians, in some of the worst violence to rattle the restive frontier in recent years.
The fighting erupted on Saturday when ethnic-minority insurgent groups, who are locked in a long-running battle with the Myanmar state, attacked security posts around Muse, a border town and trade hub in northeastern Shan state.
Saturday’s carnage, which also left at least 27 injured, was one of the bloodiest days in recent years in a long-running rebellion that is separate from the Rohingya crisis to the west.
Fighting in the remote region in early 2017 sent more than 20,000 Myanmar refugees scrambling across the border into China’s Yunnan province, raising tensions.
On Sunday, the Chinese embassy in Yangon condemned the clashes and said it had urged “relevant parties” to reach an immediate ceasefire.
The violence “made people from the Myanmar side flee across the Chinese border, and stray bullets have entered into Chinese territory”, the statement added.
Observers believe Beijing holds significant sway over the ethnic rebels near its border and is a key player in a faltering peace process steered by Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ms Suu Kyi placed the peace bid – an effort to extinguish around two dozen complicated and long-running ethnic conflicts across the country – at the top of her agenda after she was elected to office in landmark 2015 elections.
But the effort has been severely hampered by a surge in fighting between Myanmar security forces and an alliance of rebel groups in northeastern Shan and Kachin states.
Saturday’s attacks were blamed on the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which claimed responsibility for operation and apologised for the civilian deaths.