China asks citizens to evacuate Myanmar border area over security risks

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 government has been battling ethnic minority rebel groups in what has become its biggest challenge since it seized power in a 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 rebel groups have seized several towns and border hubs vital for trade with China.

Myanmar has witnessed its most significant escalation in hostilities across the country since the start of Operation 1027.

“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 vowed 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 ceasefire in Myanmar’s restive north, where a billion-dollar rail line is planned under Beijing’s $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative.

In November, the rebel groups 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.

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