Northern Myanmar fighting calls for Beijing's tactical involvement
Published: Mar 08, 2017 12:48 AM

Fighting has erupted in northern Myanmar again. According to the office of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's de facto leader, rebels from a local armed ethnic group launched a surprise attack early on Monday against police and military posts in Kokang, a region bordering China. The clashes killed at least 30 people, including many civilians. Pictures of dead bodies of some Chinese civilians were circulated online on Tuesday. Although we don't know if the pictures are real, some Chinese netizens vehemently called on the Chinese government to "unify" Kokang.

It is not a simple matter for China to deal with the northern Myanmar conundrum. There is no territorial dispute between China and Myanmar. The boundary treaty signed in 1960 between China and Myanmar designated Kokang as part of Myanmar. China will by no means encroach on Myanmar's sovereignty to interfere in northern Myanmar affairs.

But as a neighbor as well as a stakeholder in the northern Myanmar conflicts, China should offer support and help. For a long time, China has played a constructive role in promoting peace talks, mediating with all parties concerned to participate in Myanmar's peace process. 

To prevent the current armed conflicts from mounting, it's imperative to urge the relevant parties to reach an unconditional cease-fire and return to peace negotiations. It's time for China to help make a thorough investigation into the killings and monitor the cease-fire.

The atrocities of killing civilians must be severely punished and a cease-fire must be realized soon, which is not only related to the advancement of Myanmar's peace process, but also to the peace and stability of China's border areas. The clashes at the beginning of 2015 in Kokang forced thousands of Myanmese to flee across the border into China, which severely disturbed daily life and work in China's border regions.

Myanmar assumes an important position in the China-proposed One Belt and One Road initiative and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor. The people in northern Myanmar are supposed to benefit from these initiatives. However, long-lasting military clashes have made northern Myanmar increasingly poor and deprived the people there of development opportunities.

During China's ongoing two sessions, some representatives from Yunnan Province suggested China should hasten construction of a railroad linking Yunnan's Ruili and Myanmar's Kyaukpyu port. No matter how beneficial China's planning is to the economic development and promotion of people's livelihood in both countries, if the armed conflicts continue, any plans will be in vain.

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