With violence continuing in northern Myanmar near China’s southwest border, concern is growing over how stability-obsessed China will respond as the turmoil threatens to spill over national borders. Myanmar officials are appealing to Beijing for assistance in preventing “terrorists” from entering China to launch their attacks.
“It is necessary to cooperate ... on the understanding that terrorist attacks on Myanmar are not allowed from Chinese territory,” Hmuu Zaw, a representative from the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein, said in a statement on Facebook. According to the BBC, Myanmar is seeking more decisive support after a previous army chief accused “foreign powers” of supporting the insurgents.
Peng Jiasheng, an ousted rebel leader who has been in hiding since 2009, recently made a public appearance reclaiming leadership over the mostly ethnically Chinese Kokang region. Peng claims he has spent his time in hiding traveling in Southeast Asia and China. According to a report by VOA, in an interview with Chinese media, Peng has been calling for Chinese around the world to support his claims as a leader of the Kokang autonomous region. China’s Communist Party-backed Global Times also ran an interview with Peng, in which he said the rebel group had no other choice but to fight; he also called on China to intervene on their behalf.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, denies any association with the group. “China always respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar, and does not allow any organization or individual to spoil China-Myanmar relations and undermine stability of the border area on the Chinese territory,” Hua said in response to an inquiry during a press briefing in Beijing about an unspecified ethnic militia in Kokang being associated with China. “We hope that all conflicting parties of Myanmar can exercise restraint and prevent the situation from escalating and affecting the stability of the China-Myanmar border area and the security on the Chinese side.”
Myanmar declared martial law on Feb. 18 for three months and a state of emergency in Kokang, prompting many to flee to China’s southern Yunnan province. Chinese state media say an estimated 30,000 refugees have gone to Yunnan’s Zhenkang County after ongoing clashes intensified on Feb. 9 and left at least 50 government soldiers and 26 rebels dead.
According to Myanmar state-run media, Thein Sein said his regime “will not lose an inch of Myanmar territory.”