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Myanmar at risk of breaking apart, junta-backed leader says

November 9, 2023

Ethnic armed groups claim to have taken control of military outposts and blocked trade routes to China. Beijing's Foreign Ministry has warned its citizens to avoid the north of Myanmar.

Myanmar acting president Myint Swe
Myanmar's acting president says the country could break apart if the military does not defeat armed groups active near the border with ChinaImage: U Aung/Photoshot/Xinhua/IMAGO

Myanmar is at risk of breaking apart if the junta fails at putting down armed groups, the country's acting president Myint Swe said.

Fighting has raged for almost two weeks across the northeastern Shan state, near Myanmar's border with China.

"If the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region, the country will be split into various parts," Myint Swe said.

"It is necessary to carefully control this issue. As now is an important time for the State, the entire people need to support Tatmadaw (the military)," he stressed.

He made the remarks at a meeting of the National Defense and Security Council, attended by junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and other officials.

Myint Swe was vice president under the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, which was ousted by the military in 2021. Myanmar's junta later appointed him acting president.

What is the situation in Myanmar?

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army said they have seized dozens of military outposts and blocked routes to China.

The junta has admitted to losing a key trade hub.

Myanmar is home to over a dozen armed groups that oppose the junta and demand autonomy for ethnic minority groups, some of which have fought the military for decades.

Myanmar's ethnic minorities make up around a third of the country's 54 million inhabitants.

More recently, some of the armed groups have trained and equipped "People's Defense Forces" (PDF) since the 2021 coup and the ensuing military crackdown.

China seeks border stability with Myanmar

Earlier this week, Beijing confirmed there had been Chinese casualties as a result of the clashes. On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry advised Chinese citizens in Myanmar to avoid areas beset by "fierce" conflicts and told them not to travel to the north of the country.

China is a major arms supplier for Myanmar's junta.

sdi/sms (AFP, Reuters)