Ethnic alliance makes further gains against Myanmar junta

Groups involved in the ongoing offensive in northern Shan State say they captured seven more junta outposts over the weekend

Myanmar ethnic armed groups seized a handful of outposts on Saturday as they pressed their offensive against the junta in the north of the country, local media reports said.

Fighting has ramped up across vast swaths of Shan State near the Chinese border this week, forcing more than 23,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations.

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA) say they have captured dozens of outposts and four towns and blocked vital trade routes to China.

Local media reports said TNLA fighters on Saturday seized two outposts controlled by pro-military militias near Lashio, the largest town in northern Shan State and home to the regime’s Northeastern Regional Command.

The TNLA also flagged gains about four hours away at Namhkam.

“We seized four outposts in total this morning, two outposts from Lashio while the other two were from Namhkam,” a TNLA member told AFP.

The MNDAA said it had seized three military outposts further to the east.

The junta has not commented on Saturday’s clashes but on Thursday a spokesman dismissed as “propaganda” claims that the allied ethnic armed groups had captured several towns in Shan State.

The junta on Saturday said the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), another ethnic armed group based in neighbouring Kachin State, had joined the attacks on its forces, and that it would retaliate.

Local media reported the junta had shelled the remote town of Laiza on the Chinese border, home to the KIA’s headquarters.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has vowed that the military “will launch counter-attacks” against the groups.

On the other side of the border, a team of AFP journalists were stopped Saturday in China’s Yunnan Province at a permanent police checkpoint about 50km up the valley from the border crossing of Chin Shwe Haw, a town that the Myanmar military said last Wednesday it had lost control over.

Chinese police said only people living beyond the checkpoint or others who had gained special authorisation could currently pass due to ongoing clashes across the border.

“We’re now in special circumstances,” an officer told AFP. “Unless necessary, no one can go in.”

China called on Thursday for an immediate ceasefire in Shan State—where a billion-dollar rail route, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure project, is planned.

Myanmar’s borderlands are home to more than a dozen ethnic armed groups, some of which have fought the military for decades over autonomy and control of lucrative resources.

There are also turf wars with pro-military aligned militia over criminal enterprises ranging from drug smuggling and casinos to prostitution and cyber scams.

The AA, MNDAA and TNLA say the military has suffered dozens killed, wounded and captured since Friday.

The development comes as the head of Russia’s navy arrived in Myanmar on an official visit to oversee the launch of the first joint military exercises between the two countries in recent history, Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement.

Russian navy chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov arrived in Myanmar on Friday to oversee the joint military drills, meet with top officials and visit warships, according to the statement.

Russia has been a key ally of Myanmar’s junta since it seized power In February 2021.

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