Myanmar convoy burns on China’s border as its envoy meets for talks
A convoy of trucks bringing goods into Myanmar from China has gone up in flames in what state media reported on Friday was an insurgent attack, compounding surging insecurity that has raised concern in neighbouring China, Reuters reports.
The fire in the town of Muse came as China’s ambassador to Myanmar met top officials in the Myanmar capital for talks on stability on the border after recent signs that their relationship has been coming under rare strain.
“Due to this terrorist act … about 120 out of 258 vehicles carrying household goods, consumer goods, clothes and building materials were destroyed by fire,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported, referring to an opposition alliance that launched an offensive against the junta a month ago.
Li Kyar Win, a spokesman for one of the insurgent forces, denied torching the convoy saying it did not conduct attacks that would “destroy the people’s interests”.
Myanmar’s military has lost control of several towns and military outposts in the northeast and elsewhere around the country as it grapples with the biggest coordinated offensive it has faced since it seized power in a 2021 coup.
More than 2 million people have been displaced in different parts of the country due to the surge of fighting, the United Nations says.
Earlier in the week, at least 10 people were killed in Laukkai town, which like Muse is also in Shan State on the border with China, media reported, when a rocket hit a vehicle of people trying to flee the fighting.
Spokespeople for the junta and a rebel group operating in the area both condemned the incident and denied responsibility.
Reuters could not independently verify the death toll in the attack.
China has called for peace and stability in Myanmar and the latest unrest came as its ambassador, Chen Hai, was meeting Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign minister, Than Swe, and military officials in the capital, Naypyitaw.
They discussed “bilateral relations, continued implementation of mutually beneficial bilateral projects” and “cooperation in peace and stability and rule of law along the borde”, Myanmar state media reported.
China’s embassy in Myanmar issued a notice late on Friday asking Chinese nationals stranded in Laukkai to evacuate as soon as possible, citing “high” safety risks.
CRACKDOWN ON CRIME
Before the latest insurgent offensive, Chinese and Myanmar junta officials had launched a crackdown in the region on gangs operating internet fraud centres that China blames for cheating many of its people.
As part of that drive, Myanmar handed over tens of thousands Chinese telecom fraud suspects this month.
The fighting close to the border and the drive against the online fraud gangs, many organised by Chinese criminals, has shone a spotlight on the neighbours’ relations.
China has been supportive of the Myanmar military since it seized power in 2021 but Chinese authorities have for years had complex cross-border relations with factions in northeast Myanmar often outside the control of the central government.
Myanmar authorities have long suspected China of meddling in support of some militia factions.
On the weekend, in a rare rally in Myanmar since a sweeping crackdown on dissent, dozens of nationalist protesters gathered outside the Chinese embassy in the main city of Yangon with banners and posters critical of Beijing.
“We request China government don’t support northern terrorist groups,” read one of their posters, in English.
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun later said the protesters were opposed to the insurgents. He did not refer to their call for China not to support the rebels but accused the Western media of trying to destroy Myanmar’s relations with China.